Another stop on my vacation last week was Fort Morgan. I worked there from 2000-2002. I visited in 2003, but have not been able to get back there since.
The fort and what use to be the military reservation are surrounded by a concrete sea wall that was built after the devastating 1906 hurricane. The wall breaks the storm surge, which is usually the most damaging part on the barrier island during a hurricane. The damage has been mostly cleaned up since Ivan in 2004 and Katrina in 2005. I noticed that all the pine trees that are still standing within the sea wall are still alive. All the trees that are outside the wall and down the peninsula are all dead. The surge of salt water killed all the pine trees outside the sea wall.
And although the storm really devastated Pensacola and coastal Alabama, it appears that it only pruned back development a little bit. I noticed a few places gone, but overall they are back to building like crazy. There was a billboard advertising an Alabama housing development that said, "Florida is full." And of course encouraging people to come there instead. I wonder if we could get some of those billboards posted down here?
Anyway, I got to do some living history with the Tuesday night tour, and a musket and cannon firing. It was great fun to do that again. They are short on staff who work full-time in the park this year, but a lot of former workers, volunteers, and friends come out to dress up in gray wool uniforms in hot and humid evenings. And Ms. Thelma and Ms. Mary are there several times a week. All the volunteers and helpers at the fort are such wonderful people to help out. And the Tuesday night tours are getting bigger crowds each year!
I had not known that Mr. Bailey was back at Fort Morgan. In my opinion, he is one of the best curators in Alabama, and makes some good museum displays. He is also a hands-on type of curator, too.
There is talk of making Fort Morgan a National Park if the state does not fix some things up. I don't know if that will really help. I did see some damage from the hurricanes that we cannot fix on the fort. But overall, it was doing well, or as well as could be expected with a shrinking staff and budget over the years. The staff they have now is very good, although about half the size when I worked there, and they give what they can to keep the park running. The Alabama Historical Commission was hit hard by state budget cuts since 2002. When the state cuts funds, the museums and parks are the first to go.
Unlike Fort Morgan, the coastal third system forts in Louisiana are still closed. The Coastal Defense Study Group gave some damage assessment from Hurricane Katrina in recent newsletters. They said first off, the damage from the hurricane is beyond description. Forts Pike and Fort Macomb near Slidell are closed. The water opened up cracks going down the entire walls, and undermined the foundations. Fort Macomb was already closed to the public, and previously was actually in better shape than Fort Pike. Now both are closed with no idea when they can open back up. Fort Jackson, 67 miles south of New Orleans, was submerged for six weeks. The water also severely undermined the foundation and many parts of the fort are in danger of collapse from what I have heard. And as we know, they have more urgent concerns in New Orleans than the preservation of our historic sites and national treasures.
I will post photos of Fort Morgan when I can get them developed. I really do need a digital camera!