What better way to resume posting, and commence the new year, with a shout-out reminiscent of a Star Wars movie title what with one of its inventory in theaters now? Read the following, and have renewed hope for the largest Civil War-related site in Michigan:
"The National Park Service is teaming up with the city of Detroit and others to look for ways to reinvigorate Historic Fort Wayne in southwest Detroit.
Recognizing that 80 percent of Americans live in urban areas today, the National Park Service sent urban fellows to Detroit and nine other U.S. cities last year to work with organizations in each to identify ways to expand and create recreational and cultural opportunities in the cities and to steward historic assets of national significance such as Historic Fort Wayne.
The city of Detroit has owned the star-shaped fort since 1974. Its Parks and Recreation Department operates the fort, with assistance from the nonprofit Historic Fort Wayne Coalition.
Built in 1843 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1971, the fort currently attracts about 150,000 visitors a year, from neighborhood soccer leagues to Civil War re-enactments, said George Jacobsen, senior program officer at the Kresge Foundation, which is providing a grant to support the planning effort.
The National Park Service has taken an interest in the fort and is working with the city and others to identify the current state of the grounds and more than 30 military buildings there. The team will also seek to identify ways to increase public access to the 83-acre grounds through efforts such as amplifying the fort as a historic cultural landmark to draw more visitors, new recreational activities and creative reuse of the buildings as homes for small and creative businesses or housing that would provide a sustainable source of revenue to help maintain the property, Jacobsen said.
A $265,000 grant from Kresge to the National Park Foundation will fund the spring hire of a consultant to work with city officials in developing by the end of 2017 a comprehensive strategic plan for the fort, including a timeline for implementation.
In the interim, David Goldstein, a National Park Services urban fellow and ranger and anthropologist who grew up in metro Detroit, will serve as the interim project director for the effort, establishing an advisory group of public, private and nonprofit stakeholders to lead the planning process.
Once hired, the consultant will be charged with creating a leasing program for the city of Detroit which will allow for the renovation and use of the buildings in the fort complex.
A request for proposals is expected to be released by spring 2018 to seek proposals from prospective tenants, including community and cultural organizations, to renovate and lease buildings on the fort grounds.
Many U.S. forts and military establishments have fallen into limited use, and the National Park Service has worked with community partners in those cities to find new uses for them, Jacobsen said.
Goldstein will work with the city, Historic Fort Wayne Coalition and others in thinking through the ways Historic Fort Wayne could be better connected to the Detroit riverfront and new recreational amenities like the Iron Belle trail, a new greenway trail for hiking and biking that will traverse the state when complete, Jacobsen said, as well as ways to best continue bringing visitors to the fort.
It's one of the city's most historic sites, he said, but it's lacked investment.
The Detroit Department of Parks and Recreation will help facilitate the National Park Service's engagement with the local community as it works to develop its strategic plan for the property, John Roach, spokesman for Mayor Mike Duggan, said in a release.
Fort Wayne was built amid tensions between the U.S. and British Canada, but it never saw military conflict. The U.S. signed a treaty with Britain calling for diplomatic solutions to territorial disputes soon after the fort was built, according to the Historic Fort Wayne Coalition website.
The new fort was re-commissioned as an infantry garrison, but did not see any troops until the outbreak of the Civil War, when the first Michigan soldiers reported for duty.
The fort became a primary induction center for Michigan troops entering battle in every U.S. conflict from the Civil War to Vietnam. It was a U.S. Army base for 125 years, serving as an infantry training station, housing a chaplain school and acting as the primary procurement location for the vehicles and weapons manufactured in Detroit during both World Wars. During World War II, the fort also housed prisoners of war from Italy.
Beginning in 1948, the fort was given to the city of Detroit in parcels, with the exception of 9 acres still occupied by the Army Corps of Engineers.
The fort's structures include the original 1848 limestone barracks building, 1845 Star Fort which was renovated in 1861, the restored commanding officer's house, Spanish American War guard house and the Tuskegee Airmen Museum."