Mandan News

Plans proposed for Fort Lincoln

Mark Zimmerman, director of the North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department, speaks to the crowd that came to provide input during a public meeting on the future plans for Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park at the Mandan Middle School on Jan. 9. Brian L. Gray photo

 

By Brian L. Gray

 

Park-wide transportation, more camping space and more educational opportunities are some of the ideas being proposed by the North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department for the future of Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park.

The state parks department unveiled its tentative master plan for Fort Lincoln during a public meeting, which was held Jan. 9 at the Mandan Middle School.

Mark Zimmerman, director of state parks, said the reason for the master plan was that it has been a long time since a master plan has been created for Fort Lincoln. “There’s been a 20-year gap since we last had a master plan drawn up, so we felt it was time to come up with an update,” he said.

Modernizing the campgrounds is one of the areas where the state parks is looking to act upon. Fort Lincoln’s current camper lots are not large enough to handle newer RV and camper models, and they plan to update the lots to better accommodate the larger space needs.

This plan would also include building a new campground roughly 300 acres in size, which would be located south of the Cavalry Square area of Fort Lincoln.

One of the concerns posed by the state parks is that many of the buildings are underutilized, said Margaret Follingstad with Architecture Planning, of Fargo, the company hired to present the master plan to the public. To tackle this concern, the state parks looked at discerning what local residents are looking for at Fort Lincoln, and how state parks can create new programming or development.

Another problem posed is the difficulty in traveling around Fort Lincoln. State parks is considering adding park-wide transportation services, whether that includes expanding the cable car or offering automobile or bus services.

Some possibilities for underused facilities like Cavalry Square, Follingstad said, would be to make the space available for more social or corporate events.

More educational outreach is being considered as well. State parks would like to expand Fort Lincoln’s interpretive program on the history of the military, CCC, Native Americans and the Missouri, all major areas directly related to Fort Lincoln.

There are also plans to move the park offices, which some claim are hard to find. There is limited space at the office, which keeps meetings from being held there. The offices would be moved next to the entrance gate, and the park manager’s residence would be relocated too. The manager’s residents could then be turned into a group shelter or an area for schools groups to visit, Follingstad said.

The plans at this time are involving input from what sort of upgrades or changes the public would like to see at Fort Lincoln. You can add your input online at parkrec.nd.gov.

“All input we receive will be used as a tool to gather thoughts as we work with our internal committee, as well as other committees, before we come up with a master plan. From there we’ll seek funding,” Follingstad said.

These plans come in the wake of the Fort Lincoln Foundation’s recent announcement that it wishes to cuts its ties with the state parks department. On Dec. 27 the foundation notified the state parks that it will no longer offer its interpretive services at the state park.

The one-year contract between state parks and the foundation expired at the end of 2012, ending a 30-year relationship since the foundation was formed.

While the Parks and Recreation Department owns the buildings, the foundation owns most of its contents.

One issue the foundation has is that it had not been involved in earlier meetings that were held last year for the creation of the master plan for Fort Lincoln.

Fort Lincoln, Zimmer-man pointed out, is the state’s oldest state park, which was created in 1907. Its current foundation was formed recently after its last master plan was created in 1982.

A draft of the master plan is expected to be completed in about six weeks. Funding would be sought during the 2015 Legislature.