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NPS Policy Fiasco

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I received this off of one of the mailing lists that I have. I will post it here, and then comment. I received a few different posts on different reenactor lists, so I will post the shortest one. (It still makes the same point.)

Subject: FW: [Revlist] Take Action - NPS Policy Input
This was on Revlist, and effects us. For that matter, the Castillo in St. Augustine is right on top of the implementation of this one. I don't usually ask folks to contact a congressman or take any actions, but take a look at this proposed policy, and contact someone. Let them know how we feel about reenacting on NPS sites.
John Thornton
Royal NC Regt

Begin Fwd:
If you care about the NPS Policy and your ability to reenact in a national park, then you have an opportunity to comment on it with the US Congress.
National Parks Subcommittee Chairman Steve Pearce (R-NM) has called for a congressional hearing on Management Policies next week. It is imperative that the Chairman hear from the public that they do not support of the latest draft. Tell them that you want a change in the draft of the national park Management Policies.
Below is the draft policy (it has gone on the wrong direction due to efforts internal to the management of the NPS.)
You can reach Chairman Pearce here -
Other members of the committee include
Jim Saxton, NJ
Dale E. Kildee , MI
Elton Gallegly, CA
Neil Abercrombie , HI
John J. Duncan, Jr. TN
Ron Kind, WI
George P. Radanovich, CA
Tom Udall, NM
Walter B. Jones, NC
Madeleine Bordallo, GU
Henry Brown, Jr., SC
Charlie Melancon, LA
Luis G. Fortuno, PR
Nick J. Rahall, II, WV, ex officio
Marilyn Musgrave, CO
Richard W. Pombo, CA, ex officio

Draft Policy:
Battle reenactments and demonstrations of battle tactics that involve exchanges of fire between opposing lines, the taking of casualties, hand-to-hand combat, or any other form of simulated warfare, are prohibited in all parks. Even the best-researched and most well-intentioned representation of combat cannot replicate the tragic complexity of real warfare. Respect for the memory of those whose lives were lost at these sites and whose unrecovered remains are often still interred in these grounds precludes the staging of inherently artificial battles at these memorial sites. Battle reenactments create an atmosphere inconsistent with the memorial qualities of the battlefields and other military sites placed in the Service's trust. The safety risks to participants and visitors, and the inevitable damage to the physical resource which occurs during such events are also unacceptably high when viewed in light of the NPS mandate to preserve and protect park resources and values.

Okay? Now for my comments:

1. This policy is already in place. You cannot hold a battle reenactment at a national park. But maybe this is our chance to add our input, from the people who know what they are doing. I am a professional historian and living history interpreter, and believe that I know more than the committee who wrote this policy.

2. This is written by someone who has no idea what living history interpretation is. They probably hate living history events with a passion, and seek to eliminate them altogether, along with the 2nd amendment to the constitution. It is full of mistruths and lack of understanding of reenactments. The way it is written is a slap in the face of every person who participates in a living history event.

What damage do we do to historic sites? What “inevitable damage to the physical resource which occurs during such events” are they talking about? Name them. I have worked at historic sites, and can say that it is none. We do not fire real bullets or cannon shot. Every event should have rules and guidelines to conduct the event that will prevent damage to the historic site. (i.e. no digging, only fires on top of the ground.)

What safety risks to visitors occur? Events are not dangerous. In 20 years of doing events, I know of no instance where a visitor has been injured as a result of a historic reenactment.

Every event should have safety rules and guidelines. We have been doing this for many years, and safe operation and practice of historic weapons has been established. Standards have been set, and safety manuals written. The way we drill and operate muskets and cannons are safer than they were when these weapons were originally used. The only deaths that have ever occurred at events that I know about is a few people who succumbed to heat exhaustion at Gettysburg, from marching all day in wool uniforms and not being physically fit. And even this is not common.

If you talk with anyone who participates in events, they will have a feeling that they are honoring the people who walked and died on these fields. Historical interpreters have a sense of honor and reverence of the people that preceded us. Somebody please explain exactly how someone can say, “Battle reenactments create an atmosphere inconsistent with the memorial qualities of the battlefields and other military sites placed in the Service's trust.” This is more of a subjective philosophy of someone how is totally ignorant of historical interpretation.
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