Work on a $1 million renovation of the Fort Gibson Historic Site should be complete by the spring of 2012, said Dr. Bob Blackburn, executive director of the Oklahoma Historical Society.
Blackburn made the announcement standing beneath the deteriorating canopy in the center of the re-created historic fort of the 1800s.
OHS has been able to parlay a $200,000 appropriation into $1 million with the help of a number of state officials, Blackburn said. The state money was matched with a grant from the National Park Service’s Save America’s Treasures program. It was supplemented with $645,000 obtained through the Oklahoma Department of Transportation and the U.S. Department of Transportation.
The compilation of funds will make it possible to fully restore all the buildings of the fort re-created by the Works Progress Administration, Blackburn said. Some of the WPA work that has been hidden by time, such as some of the walks they built, also will be restored in the project.
The restoration work will begin with improving drainage around the stockade, he said. Over the years, the terrain has changed and water now gathers at the foot of the fort’s log walls, causing them to decay.
Many of the logs, as well as the wood shingle roofs will be replaced, and handicapped-accessible rest rooms will be built.
When that work is done, construction of interpretive centers and trails will begin, as well as construction of a new visitor center and classroom.
That work will include interpretation of the remains of the original stockade that were discovered a few years ago, Blackburn said.
The historic site will continue not only to be a major tourist attraction in the area, but also a history education center.
Blackburn said he hopes in July to announce upcoming major improvements at the Honey Springs battlefield near Rentiesville.
OHS and other agencies will work together to better tie the Murrell Home at Tahlequah, which survived the Civil War, with Fort Gibson and the Honey Springs site.
Those three sites will be of major importance in history tourism as the nation nears the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, Blackburn said.
Reach Liz McMahan at 684-2926 or lmcmahan@ muskogeephoenix.com.
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