Ã¢â‚¬Å“TO THE PEOPLE OF OSWEGO AND THE STATE OF NEW YORKÃ¢â‚¬Â
One hundred and ninety-six years ago, American soldiers stood on top of the very ramparts that exist at Fort Ontario today, and gazed out in terrifying wonderment at what was coming their way. The armed forces of Great Britain had amassed the largest naval armada in the history of Lake Ontario, and set course to invade and capture Oswego. The men of the 3rd U.S. Artillery, augmented by some local militia, numbering few more than 350 souls, stood and watched the British fleet approach. Outgunned, outnumbered, and inspired by the spirits of men who sacrificed their lives in earlier wars in Oswego, the Americans resolved to stay and fight and add their blood to Fort OntarioÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s already hallowed ground.
Now, the Fort is again under siege Ã¢â‚¬â€œ not by an armada assembled by a foreign enemy, but one of our own making. Budget cuts in Albany, spurred by an era of fiscal irresponsibility, have led us to the real possibility of losing a site that holds such a rich history, and many stunning tales of bravery.
On top of the FortÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s awe-inspiring history, the facility has served as a subtle, yet potent economic engine for Oswego County. Recent independent studies have concluded that for every 1 dollar a state invests in its park system; the result is a return of 5 dollars of activity. For Oswego, that means roughly 600,000 dollars of activity that will be lost in the event the site closes. Small businesses, already reeling for an unstable economy, will be forced to absorb more loss. Everyday citizens will be robbed of the inexpensive and educational form of entertainment that the fort provides. Buildings and grounds that require basic maintenance will fall into disrepair, making their ability to be returned to current restored state, almost impossible. And what of the artifacts donated to the fort over the years, and the unguarded stonewalls awaiting the graffiti or vandals?
We will endure all this consequence for 117,000 dollars in savings, and a statewide effect of less than 1% of the projected deficit. We collectively ask; is it worth it? The answer, certainly, is no. Proponents of the plan claim it costs too much money to operate the facility; however, even if ignoring all the economic benefits the site provides to the area, we must ask: when has America ever placed a price on duty? The Friends of Fort Ontario have joined with many other voices from all over the state in asking that our legislators find the importance and reason in our argument, and reject Governor PatersonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s ill-conceived funding cuts to our heritage. These voices have not been ignored. Citizens like Morgan Domicolo, who created a Facebook page titled Ã¢â‚¬Å“DonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t Close Fort Ontario,Ã¢â‚¬Â have amassed 6,400 members. Legislators have had their mailboxes filled and phone lines ringing constantly, with angry constituents demanding the plan be overturned. We are making progress. But there is still much to be done.
Fort Ontario is more than a park Ã¢â‚¬â€œ itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a monument to everything that America stands for. It stands as a symbol of freedom, bravery, and a permanent memorial to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice in our nationÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s defense. The Friends of Fort Ontario have labored for decades ensuring that the sacrifices made by those whoÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve gone before us remain in the forefront of our minds. We ask that you join us Sunday, March 14th, at 12 noon on the Fort Grounds and fight to save this site for our present and future generations.
President, Friends of Fort Ontario