OSWEGO, NY Ã¢â‚¬â€œ The Port City’s existence has been tied to the military fortifications on the Oswego Harbor since the 1650s.
And, at Monday night’s Common Council meeting, city officials spoke with one voice: “We won’t give up our fort without a fight!”
Mayor Randy Bateman and the Common Council unanimously approved a resolution calling on all of the city’s New York State representatives to provide the funding to support and maintain Fort Ontario.
The council encourages every resident to call upon their representatives to sustain “the on-going support for the Fort Ontario State Historic Site as an important cultural and historical site for our region, our state and our country.”
A copy of the resolution will be forwarded to Governor David Paterson, State Senator Darrell Aubertine and Assemblyman Will Barclay.
The assemblyman has already vowed to do what he can to fight the proposal to close the historic site.
Barclay “hit the nail on the head in his statement regarding the proposed closure of Fort Ontario as part of reducing state spending and meeting upcoming budget goals,” said Second Ward Councilor Mike Myers.
As the Second Ward alderman, whose district includes Fort Ontario, Myers commended Barclay for taking a proactive approach to the “unacceptable proposal” and continuing to fight for the residents of Oswego.
“As you know, Fort Ontario is a fixture in our community that creates tourism revenue for the county, but more importantly is an educational tool that teaches our children about this important historic military site, our battle with Great Britain for our independence and the founding of this great city,” Myers continued. “Thousands of volunteers have worked tirelessly donating their time and money to ensure that Fort Ontario remains a treasure in our community.”
Myers urges all Oswego residents to join him and Barclay in their endeavor to save Fort Ontario.
Also speaking out in support of the fort Monday night were Allen Bjorkman of the Oswego Arts Collaboration and Mercedes Niess, director of the H. Lee White Marine Museum.
Part of the Oswego Arts Collaboration’s mission is to promote and support art and cultural tourism. The group has held several arts festivals at Fort Ontario.
“Our organization supports the continued operation of Fort Ontario,” he told the councilors. “Agriculture has been supplanted by tourism as Oswego County’s number one industry. The backbone of tourism is culture.”
Niess pointed out that a couple years ago the museum and the fort partnered with the Harley Davidson company to bring hundreds of motorcycle enthusiasts to the Port City.
“About 400 riders came to town. They stayed in the community all day, they shopped and ate in our restaurants,” she said. “So, there definitely is an economic impact.”
She also noted the fort’s large part each year during Harborfest and the various re-enactments that play out on the fort’s grounds.
“Although cultural institutions have been particularly hit hard over the last few decades, the museums in this community and Fort Ontario have done a wonderful job,” she added. “I say it is time to rally the troops around this important institution.”
Currently, the historic site provides interpretation of the history of this region and also provides much needed tourism revenues.
A military fortification was first located at the Fort Ontario site by the British in 1755 called the Fort of the Six Nations. The original wooden fort was destroyed and rebuilt several times.
The garrison fort was closed by the U.S. Army in 1949. The oldest part of Fort Ontario became a state historic site, listed on the State and National Register of Historic Places in 1970.
The fort was also used as the only emergency war refugee center in the United States to house 982 victims of the Nazi Holocaust in Europe.