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Battle over Fort Morris

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POSTED: February 25, 2007 5:07 a.m.
The troops are rallying for Fort Morris again.
This battle will be more like the skirmishes of 1997 than the earlier, more famous battles of 1778-79.
The threatening force is again the Department of Natural Resources, which plans to cut the historic site from operating six days each week to only three.
That foe announced plans in 1997 to close the Fort Morris site and nine other locations to meet a statewide five percent budget reduction.
Then-Gov. Zell Miller included funding for the historic site in east Liberty County in his budget proposal, despite the  the DNR plan to end funding.
“The efforts of local citizens who were interested enough to write letters and contact the governor’s office played a great part,” in the governor’s decision, Buddy DeLoach, state representative at the time, said.
The history buffs, tourism officials and other interested citizens have been taking those same measures in the hope of saving the fort again, but this time DNR’s division of parks and historic sites seems much further along with the process and has moved much more quietly.
With the cutback to begin at an unspecified “mid-February” date, the fort’s supporters have much less time make their case than did in 1997.
In a statement, Becky Kelley, DNR’s director of parks, recreation and historic sites said her division has developed operational adjustment plans for several parks and historic sites in order to enable operation of all the state parks and historic sites and to maximize their availability to Georgia residents and out-of-state visitors.
Currently, Fort Morris operates with a standard state historic site schedule:  it is open Tuesday through Saturday, half a day on Sunday, and closed Monday. 
During FY 2006, Fort Morris had 13,577 visitors, among the lowest visitation in Georgia’s parks and historic sites system, she said.
Beginning in mid-February 2007, Fort Morris’ schedule of operation will be reduced to 3-days per week  (Thursday through Saturday).
The days of operation are intended to accommodate visitors and school groups on weekdays and tourists on the weekend. Signage will be installed at the end of the I-95 interstate exit and in other locations to alert visitors to the site’s new operating schedule, Kelley said.
The Fort Morris staff (site manager, interpretive ranger and utility worker) will be reassigned to nearby Fort King George State Historic Site or Fort McAllister State Historic Park during the days that Fort Morris is closed.
These staff adjustments will provide important staff support at Fort King George, which currently has no interpretive ranger or utility worker, and at Fort McAllister.
With higher visitation at Fort King George and Fort McAllister, the division is attempting to balance the operational needs and visitation demands of these three coastal historic sites.
”There is no plan or intent to close Fort Morris State Historic Site,” Kelley said. “It is an important part of the story of Georgia’s role in the American Revolutionary War.
DNR understands and appreciates the value of heritage tourism in Georgia and the role our 18 state historic sites play in that industry. We actively promote our historic sites and provide an excellent experience to our visitors.”
Sandy White, tourism coordinator for Liberty County, said, “I am very concerned that the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, State Parks and Historic Sites Division has decided to downsize Fort Morris from six days a week to three days a week. 
“This site is a very important part of the story of Georgia’s role in the American Revolutionary War as well as the story of the historic town of Sunbury and must remain open for visitors to experience this history.
“I will do everything I can to work locally and with the state to make sure this site remains open and an active part of our history that visitors and residents alike can continue to enjoy.”
Fort Morris is one of the few remaining Revolutionary War era earthwork fortifications in the United States.
First fortified in the 1750s, the fort was manned to protect the once prosperous seaport town of Sunbury.
Fort Morris was surrendered to the British on Jan. 9, 1779, the last patriot post to fall in the American Revolution. It was also used in the War of 1812. It served as a mustering point during the Civil War, but saw no action.
 

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