In an effort to update our membership on the current status of the Fort Larned Old Guard the board of directors would like to share the following information. For ease of reading we have put it into Q&A format.
Is the Fort Larned Old Guard still active? I haven't received any Outpost newsletters for over a year.
Yes, twenty years after its organization in 1988, the Old Guard is still intact, but no, we haven't mailed any newsletters for some time.
Our National Park Service agreement to operate as a "friends organization" with Fort Larned National Historic Site expired about two years ago. The renewal process has drawn out much, much longer than we anticipated.
Why has it taken so long: We've never had any difficulty in the past, have we?
No. Each of our previous agreements were relatively simple to renew. The park superintendent and the Fort Larned Old Guard chairman simply met and signed the new document.
What has been different this time?
Two things. First the NPS now requires all friends groups to operate under agreements that are in compliance with new park service regulations. The changes require organizations like the Old Guard to buy liability insurance policies. We have selected a policy and will begin paying premiums when our new agreement is approved. NPS no longer allows its friends to lobby for federal funding to maintain or improve national parks. Individual members are free to contact senators or representatives in regard to funding, but the Old Guard (like all other support organizations) will no longer be able to lobby as a group. That provision is in the agreement we are waiting to have approved. There are other changes in the park service's basic agreements, but we won't list them here, other than a new policy of the park superintendent approving all materials circulated by the support group that mention the fort, its staff, or activities. Likewise, all materials circulated by the fort that mention Fort Larned Old Guard will first be approved by the Old Guard.
You said two aspects of the agreement process have been different in this case. What is the other issue?
As difficult as it is for us to report, the current Fort Larned superintendent seems reluctant to renew our agreement. We have been given several reasons for this reluctance, ranging from complications with new NPS policies, to personality clashes with Fort Larned Old Guard officers, and the superintendent's perception that the Old Guard has not been effective.
Are those changes true?
In our opinion, no. Early in 2008, at our request, the regional director and his assistant from Omaha, Nebraska, began overseeing the new agreement process. An agreement was drawn up by the regional staff in April 2008 that appears to meet all the requirements. As of this date November 24, 2008, we are still waiting to hear from the superintendent that it meets his approval.
What about his comments about personality issues and the ineffectiveness of the Old Guard?
Knowing that personalities could possibly play a role in this process, two different Fort Larned Old Guard officers (first one, and then the other) attempted to reach and agreement with the superintendent. Neither was successful. Currently, a third officer is working with him. all three are professionals who deal successfully with the public in their everyday work situations. All are dedicated volunteers who have the best interests of Fort Larned NHS and the Old Guard at heart.
Why does the superintendent feel the Old Guard is ineffective?
We disagree with his assessment. Longtime members know of the many projects we have completed over our two decades of service to Fort Larned. We have acquired a valuable Rucker army ambulance for the Fort's collection. We have sponsored numerous events that brought members, the general public, and state and national legislators to the fort. We have donated materials to the fort's library. We have bought and are maintaining land in Ness County that was the site of a large Indian village and the scene of a critical confrontation in Plains Indian wars. It is our goal (and the NPS is in agreement) to transfer this land to the park service as an adjunct site to Fort Larned NHS. We are proud of our work with the other three superintendents who served at Fort Larned during our existence. We regret any perceived problems that have prevented a close relationship with the current superintendent. We are ready to move on. Next year marks the 150th anniversary of the establishment of Fort Larned. The Old Guard will be involved in this important milestone.
Even with no agreement in place, why haven't you mailed any newsletters?
The bulk of the information in Outpost is provided by personnel from the fort. Without an agreement, NPS staff cannot contribute information to our publication. Although this process has drawn out for two years, at various times we were confident that the agreement would be put in place "soon". In each case we hoped we could sign the agreement and continue as in the past. Unfortunately, that hasn't happened. We should have communicated with you members sooner, and we apologize for this delay.
What can be done until the agreement is reached?
We ask for your patience. We are all welcome to visit the fort as individuals, but unfortunately, we cannot hold any official meetings there until the agreement is in place. This is why we scheduled the 2008 annual meeting at Fort Hays State Historic Site. We will soon circulate a mailing to renew memberships for 2009.
If an agreement can't be reached, will the Old Guard continue?
Yes. We are confident that this issue can be solved, either now or later. Our treasury is sound. Our membership is strong. We hold title to the Indian village site. We are all committed to keeping Fort Larned and it remarkable history and heritage alive. In the meantime, if you have any further questions, concerns, comments, or suggestions, please don't hesitate to contact any of us.
We sincerely hope the next communication you receive from the Old Guard will report that our new agreement with the National Park Service is in place.
Old Guard membership is open to anyone interested in the frontier military history of the United States, the Indian Wars in the trans-Mississippi West, the role of the military in the development of Kansas and the West, Indian-white relations on the Plains, and-of course-Fort Larned National Historic Site.
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