The Park Service's Historic Buildings Can Be Saved Without Resorting to Leases
It's no secret that I've been troubled by the National Park Service's seemingly quick reliance on the private sector to preserve historic buildings on its properties.
The agency's ongoing efforts to allow a private developer to lease three dozen buildings at Fort Hancock in Gateway National Recreation Area are being done in the name of preservation. Yet there are parks that are managing restoration without resorting to privatization.
One example can be found at Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, where Superintendent Bob Krumenaker managed to obtain $1.5 million to beautifully restore the historic Raspberry Island Light Station. Of course, read the fine print and you'll discover that Superintendent Krumenaker wasn't able to secure funds to staff the restored light station, nor to restore his five other light stations.
But he was able to take a step in the right direction. And draw attention to his other needs.
Another success story can be found at Cape Hatteras National Seashore, where the Hatteras Weather Bureau Station stands today in much of its original 1901 glory. When the Park Service determined in 1984 that the building was in need of a wide range of repairs, ranging from dealing with termite problems and water damage to foundation deterioration, the agency didn't turn to the private sector for help but rather drafted a restoration plan and managed to obtain money to pay for the work.
Last month, after three years of work and $850,000 in restoration work, the weather station went back into business, this time as a visitor center and eventual museum for visitors to the national seashore. I'd say that's a much better return on the agency's investment that turning the building over to a developer with thoughts of a B&B dancing in his head.