Sunday, March 21, 2004

Historical sites brace for still-tighter times

Ohio landmarks: More budget cuts likely

By Erica Solvig
The Cincinnati Enquirer

OREGONIA - It has been years since Fort Ancient has had the money to hire help for the lone groundskeeper to mow 93 acres and maintain the 18,000 feet of earthen walls built by American Indians more than 2,000 years ago.

The state memorial also has had to pinch pennies to maintain education programs and has all but eliminated any promotions budget.

Now, after Gov. Bob Taft announced another round of state budget cuts earlier this month, officials at Fort Ancient and the 60-plus other sites funded by the Ohio Historical Society are bracing for more cuts.

"We have no idea where it is going to lead right now," said Fort Ancient site manager Jack Blosser, who helps oversee four other historical sites in the area.

The nonprofit historical society, which gets 70 percent of its funding from the state, has to trim $700,000 from its $19.4 million budget for the fiscal year that ends in June and another $900,000 for next year's budget, according to society spokeswoman Kathy Hoke.

In preparation, Blosser says, he and the other four full-time employees (one of whom splits his time helping out at Glendower mansion in Lebanon) are getting creative. They double as gift shop and tollbooth attendants and help out with the mowing and exhibit cleaning.

Boy Scout troops and other volunteers are being recruited to help maintain the site.

Attendance dropped from 56,000 in 1998, when the new museum opened, to under 30,000 visitors a year. Blosser says a big part of the problem was losing the promotional budget.

"You can have the best things to show people, but without marketing, no one will know it," he said.

Local historic sites

The Ohio Historical Society helps operate a number of sites statewide, including:

Glendower mansion in Lebanon (in partnership with Warren County Historical Society)

Fort Ancient State Memorial in Oregonia

Harrison's tomb and monument in North Bend

Harriet Beecher Stowe House in Cincinnati

Ulysses S. Grant's birthplace in New Richmond



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