Letter to the Editor: Staffords Call for Bent's Old Fort Public Meeting

Description: The Following Letter is Written by Ed and Clara Lee Stafford in Response to Recent Proposed Changes at Bent's Old Fort National Historic Site in La Junta, Colorado. (The opinions expressed in Letters to the Editor are not necessarily those of SECO News or Consulting With A Hart LLC)

Published: 02/05/2024
Byline: Stafford
Letter to the Editor: Staffords Call for Bent's Old Fort Public Meeting
Historians tell us that Bent's Old Fort was never attacked.
Now, it seems, this grand reconstruction of the fabled fort is being attacked from within, leaving La Junta's one most outstanding and unique tourist attraction a shameful, deserted spectacle.
For over 5 decades, we of the Central Arkansas Valley have taken immense pride in the National Park Service's most excellent resurrection of the most important trading post on the Santa Fe Trail.  Built exactly on the footprint of the original fort, it has attracted movie-makers, schools, travelers, students of Western history, reenactors wishing to relive its approximately 16-year existence.  Every time we have visited there or taken part in events there, we have been thrilled by the ghosts who inhabit the place.
Now, the two men who have autonomy there are stripping the fort of its life.  Based on the very best authority, we learn they are the Fort Superintendent and the head of maintenance.
And what are they doing?  By all reports, too numerous to question, they have eliminated all Living History volunteers in period costume who come from near and far to bring life to the Fort.  They deny these folks the opportunity to "camp" in the rooms, and they have closed off access to the upper level where Susan Magoffin found refuge.  No longer are there vehicles to convey visitors unable to make the walk from the parking lot.  Hours and days have been cut from visiting hours.  Fort employees must now dress in Park Service uniforms, which means no soldiers, no Mexican laborers, no Indians or mountain men, no kitchen help in dresses of the day.  And, they have expelled all animals from the fort, from horses and mules and fowls to the last cat. 
Who are they?  They are Fort Superintendent Eric Leonard and maintenance chief Bill Allen.  It is true--again based on the very best authority--Supt. Leonard is given "a huge amount of latitude" to govern with complete autonomy under compliance documents that he is given.  And, Mr. Allen, we are told, does not like animals or living history--at least at our fort.  
Yes, it is OUR fort because the National Park Service is Our Park.  We are a multitude of the people for whom the Park Service was created.
At one time, not long ago, Bent's Old Fort NHS  was thought to be "the premiere historic site in the National Park system."  And, it was said, "Bent's Old Fort was the best site for Living History interpretation."  This, again, from an unquestionable source.     
If all this is true, Supt. Leonard and Mr. Allen, then speak up and defend your actions. If not, then speak up now and help to put out the wildfire that is burning.  A public meeting is called for.
A recently received communication from the National Park Service suggests a Machiavellian treatment of the Fort.  If their end justifies their means, then the end they are proposing is to bring Bent's Old Fort NHS to its knees.  It is an act unworthy of our government, but is in keeping with what we have become accustomed to expect.
     A public meeting is called for.
Ed and Clara Lee Stafford


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