No word yet on fate of fort, tower

Fort St. Pierre and the Lookout Tower at Pither’s Point remain closed to the public indefinitely—and it’s likely any decision on whether the town will pay to repair them or not will have to wait until the 2003 budget process, Fort Frances Museum curator Pam Hawley said Tuesday.
But with a price tag as high as $49,500 to fix the Lookout Tower, and the $15,000 cost of demolishing the fort and retaining the guard towers, the question is raised: how long has the town been neglecting the sites?
“It’s been a struggle all along,” said CAO Bill Naturkach. “The dollars have been tighter and tighter every year and it’s finally caught up with us.
“There have been some repairs, but not enough to prevent it from coming to this,” he added. “It’s an ongoing issue at the Community Services table, but hasn’t gone much beyond that.”
“Frankly, I didn’t realize the fort was in that bad shape,” said Coun. Struchan Gilson, who also sits on the Community Services executive committee.
“No maintenance funds have been set aside for these for some time. And now, we’ve lost a tourist attraction,” he added.
“The thing is, tourist attractions just don’t support themselves. You have to support these things for your community,” Coun. Gilson argued.
Coun. Gilson noted it’s not right to blame anyone in particular, especially not the current council, since the lack of support seems to have been a problem for many years.
The Lookout Tower opened in 1972 while Fort St. Pierre was a 1967 Canadian centennial project.
Hawley noted the last major work done at either site was in 1984 when the museum received funding to add exhibits and displays at the Pither’s Point sites, including the “Hallett.”
But since then, repairs have dwindled to some superficial work and an attempt to support the base of the fort with poured concrete in 1994.
“Basically, it’s built on a bog. It’s like putting a Band-Aid on the problem, which continues to fester underneath,” Hawley remarked.
But she noted the article on the closures in last Wednesday’s Times has some people stirring.
“The public input I’m getting is the community’s disappointed. Visiting the sites were a kind of summer tradition,” remarked Hawley.
News of the closures, and the need for repairs, came after a study was carried out last month by UMA Engineering Ltd., which cost the town $3,959.
As reported in last week’s Times, the engineering report for Fort St. Pierre suggested the log palisade, interior walkways, and interior buildings are beyond repair and should be demolished.
It added the guard towers could be repaired and maintained as separate items by themselves.
Likewise, the report said public access to the Lookout Tower should be limited to the main floor until the stairs to the second level can be modified to comply with code limitations.
Roof repairs, and reconstruction of the stairs to be of a decreased slope and with higher guardrails, are two more of the engineers’ recommendations.
Costs, which the consultants referred to as “prohibitively high,” amount to $49,500.
The “Hallett” also won’t be open to tourists this summer as some work, including sandblasting for a new paint job, are done on it.