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ALARUM:	The Budget Cuts Are Coming
By D. Michael Ryan, company historian with the Concord and Lincoln Minute Men, an 18th Century volunteer history interpreter for the National Park Service and Associate Dean of Student Development at Boston College.
colonial days cigar box label
March 13, 1775:
Several hundred minute and militia men of the Massachusetts county of Middlesex mustered upon the quiet fields of Concord. Standing resolute in their assembled ranks, these patriots were making a statement that few could misunderstand. The people of Massachusetts were willing to fight to preserve their rights, liberty and heritage. In just over a month's time, on 19 April 1775, the roar of musketry at Concord's North Bridge would insure that this statement would be heard "'round the world " for all to understand for all time.
March 13, 2005:
The "troops" mustered once again in Concord, this time standing up in defense of America's cultural and historical heritage. The day after a heavy late-winter snowstorm, approximately 120 re-enactors -- Colonial, British and Civil War era men and women -- plus some 25 volunteers and nearly 100 of the general public gathered at the North Bridge.

muster, March 13, 2005"Col. Jim Barrett" (myself) opened, explaining the current Park situation and crisis, quoting from Thomas Paine's "The Crisis" of December, 1776 ("These are the times that try men's souls..."). He introduced the "Rev. William Emerson" (Henry Cooke) who read from his March 13, 1775 sermon to the gathered militia and minute men, then made appropriate comments on the present.

Next was "Henry David Thoreau" (Richard Smith) reading from his journals and works on the importance of place and time and the hallowed ground, playing his expected social critic role. "Ralph Waldo Emerson" (Wendell Refior) then contributed words from his "Philosophy of History" lecture and Transcendentalism ideas followed by contemporary comments of witness to the message of current protest. Finally, "Lt. Ezra Ripley" (Jim Hollister) (1861) spoke to his feeling for this Park in our time and when he visited the site prior to leaving for the battlefields of the South and his death in the Civil War.

The colonials were grateful that the Reverend was brief in his remarks (having spoken for 2 1/2 hours in 1775); gave applause to Waldo at several points; amened Henry; cheered Ripley; applauded Nancy Nelson, Park Superintendant; cheered and laughed at "Col. Barrett's" remarks ("Henry told me that if the government did not increase the Park budget, he would once again consider not paying his taxes").

Some Background:
The North Bridge Battlefield, that matchless icon of freedom world wide, has been under the protection of the National Park Service since 1959. Now, Minute Man National Historical Park, entrusted by Congress with the preservation and especially the interpretation of this hallowed place, is in danger of deteriorating and foundering as a result of senseless, shortsighted and endangering cuts or under-funding of its annual operating budget.

cigar label In recent years, full-time and seasonal Ranger staffs have been drastically downsized by not filling vacancies and by cutting many seasonal Ranger positions. Yet visitation continues near 1,000,000 people per year! A lack of appropriate staff levels within the Park's Interpretive, Law Enforcement and Maintenance divisions threatens the welfare of our historic treasures and of the public. The dedicated efforts of many hundreds of volunteers have also been jeopardized by reduced staff presence, supervision and coordination, needed components of successful programming and a true partnership

Additionally, the Park is now forced in certain cases to charge fees for interpretive programs once free to all. Most importantly, the rights and wants of the American public for a meaningful, personal, hands-on education about their historic heritage are slowly being neglected. Budget short-falls are leading to possible and real reductions in historic site openings and the elimination of many Interpretive Ranger and volunteer programs. While a one-time supplement to the 2005 budget saved what appeared to be a dismal season, the solution must be a planned, dedicated and regularly funded annual budget at levels appropriate to the importance of MMNHP.

How You Can Help:
Would you like to see this Park's annual operating budget allocated at levels appropriate to meet the staffing needs, requirements and mission? Do you want to see its activities reflect the desires, expectations and needs of the American public and freedom-loving peoples of the world? Do you wish to have the personal, heroic stories of the local 18th Century people told by seasonal staff and volunteers supplemented with living history activities properly supported each Spring, Summer and Fall? Or are you satisified with yet another drive-in-look-and-leave Park of buildings and land with no human emotion, tales, thoughts, ideas, debates?

If you wish to help, please contact the NPS leaders and congressional representatives listed here expressing your concerns and expectations. Do not hesitate or all could be lost. What is taken for granted may well in time slip from memory, dissipate from our midst with little note or fanfare, never to be known or reclaimed again. The alarum is sounded...will you respond?

US Senate
merriam corner cigar label

US House of Representatives
National Park Service (NPS) -- Regional HQ
  • Marie Rust, Northeast Regional Director
    NPS, US Custom House, 200 Chestnut St. 5th Floor, Philadelphia, PA 19106 (215-597-7013)

cigar labelCoalition of Concerned NPS Retirees
  • William "Bill" Wade, Spokesman
    919 18th St., NW #975, Washington DC 20006
    National HQ: 5625 North Wilmot St., Tucson, AZ 85750 (520-615-9417)

Department of the Interior
  • Gale A. Norton, Secretary of the Interior
    1849 C St., NW, Washington, DC 20240 (202-208-3100)

National Park Service
Congressional National Park Caucus
Photo: ©2005 Rick Malone
Illustrations: These are all cigar labels from the amazing collection of Cigar Label Junkie

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