Visitors to Fort Necessity National Battlefield in Wharton Township will notice some changes as the National Park Service tackles projects to enhance the historic area that marks the opening battle of the French and Indian War.
Changes include a new, low-profile bridge near the fort, a new, paved trail spur that leads to benches in the outdoor amphitheater as well as landscape alterations aimed at bringing back the environment George Washington saw during the 1754 battle.
“These are all things done to make the visitor experience more enjoyable and understandable,’’ said Brian Reedy, chief of interpretation and site manager.
The project cost about a million dollars, funded by visitor fees collected by the National Park Service from across the country. The cost covers planning, an Indiana University of Pennsylvania archaeological study and construction.
Work in 2018 included the removal of a trail and bridge leading to the former visitor center that had stood in the historic area. A layer of the ground in this area just north of the fort was also removed.
Reedy explained that when Fort Necessity opened as a state park and national battlefield in 1932, visitors drove to a parking lot near the fort.
“They put the parking lot as close to the fort as possible,’’ said Reedy. “And to make sure the Model T’s didn’t sink into the ground, they put five feet of fill on top. That was removed. To the best of our knowledge, we’re down to the 1754 strata – ground level.’’
Also removed were an underground power-line cable, transformers and a sewage line that serviced the former visitor center. The park service breached an abutment so water that was diverted by the parking lot could flow back to this area.
“It’s wet enough to deter trees from growing,’’ said Reedy, of the area where the fort stands. “This was a natural meadow for thousands of years and would have been a lake 10,000 years ago.’’
The park service more recently replaced a bridge over Indian Run that visitors travel as they walk to the fort.
“It’s been replaced with a concrete bridge so that if a visitor should be hurt, we can bring an emergency vehicle here,’’ said Reedy. “It’s also wider so visitors don’t feel like they’re being funneled through.’’
Workers also repaved an existing trail from the new visitor center, pulling up old macadam to put down new and resealing the trail where it was in good shape.
The park service added a paved spur leading to the benches under the trees that form outdoor amphitheater where park staff tell the story of Fort Necessity. This makes the area more handicapped accessible. In addition, wayside exhibits that explain Washington’s surrender were moved here.
Work will continue this year on planting of trees in the historic area, part of the effort to bring back the 1754 tree line as determined by a 1990s study that used samples of grass and tree pollen. Historically, this area was predominately white oak and American chestnut. A variety of trees are being planted to ensure a healthy forest.
The stockade to the replica of the fort will also be replaced. Reedy said this work is done every 10 to 15 years. The wood has been purchased and the project should be finished by the end of October. Visitors will still be allowed in the area.
For the latest information on the projects and any park alerts, visit Fort Necessity’s website at www.nps.gov/fone.