Volunteers voice concerns about Fort Nisqually

Fort Nisqually was the main topic of interest of local residents who attended the Nov. 26 Metro Parks Commission meeting. The commission heard testimony from a number of people during the meeting, the main topic of which was the agency’s $105.3 million budget proposal for 2013/14. Fort Nisqually is a museum where volunteers and staff dress in outfits of the 1850s and demonstrate day-to-day living of the era. Located in Point Defiance Park, it is a recreation of the trading post established by the Hudson’s Bay Company in DuPont. The granary and factor’s house from the original location were moved to Point Defiance. John Simpkins said he has volunteered at Fort Nisqually as a blacksmith since 1982. He said the ratio of volunteers to staff at the attraction is the highest in the parks system. Claire Keller-Scholz of South Tacoma said she has volunteered at Fort Nisqually since her childhood. It helped spark her interest in history, a subject in which she recently completed her master’s degree. She urged the commissioners to maintain adequate staffing at the facility.

Heather Kibbey, a Key Peninsula resident, said she and other volunteers consider their service to be important. “We always look forward to coming back,” she said. Kibbey brought up two issues she feels hurts attendance. One is ticket prices, which she said have doubled recently. Kibbey said she often sees park visitors enter Fort Nisqually, only to turn around and leave when they find out the cost of admission. Lack of advertising is another concern. She said many area residents are unaware of the events that take place at Fort Nisqually. “That is another piece that would draw people to the fort.” Lisa Wilson of Puyallup said she meets many people who are unaware that Fort Nisqually exists. She mentioned efforts of the Works Progress Administration to re-create Fort Nisqually during the Great Depression. Wilson said she would not want to see her generation allow it to go into decline.

Karen Hass is president of the board of Heritage League of Pierce County. She lamented cuts in staff hours at Fort Nisqually and noted her board submitted a letter to the commission on this subject. Chris Berryman of Lakewood said he opposes cutting staff hours. He said the dedicated employees help the volunteers bring life to the fort. Commissioner Tim Reid said he received 30 e-mails from citizens, all on the topic of Fort Nisqually. He told the audience that the facility is not in danger of closure. “It will be there.” Commissioner Erik Hanberg mentioned his former job as director of Grand Cinema, which like Fort Nisqually operates with numerous volunteers. He expressed concern about the small size of the staff at Fort Nisqually.


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