The following is an annual report for the Friends of Fort Knox (FFK) reflecting the organization’s activities in 2011. This report will highlight the restoration of a powder magazine and an uptick in two of four income sectors. The largest income increase was registered in our gate income percentage. The Bureau of Parks and Lands reverted back to our original Fort Knox contract gate split at 50% (all observatory fees go directly to the Maine Department of Transportation).
Overall FFK gross revenue was down 12.4% in 2011.
The Friends of Fort Knox Board of Directors and staff continued to work hard to contain expenses, work with community groups, maximize resources, diversify income streams and complete projects at the Fort. The success of the organization would not have been possible without the outstanding cooperation of our partners, the Bureau of Parks and Lands, and especially park manager Mike Wilusz.
At the end of 2011, all FFK combined available unrestricted funds were $147,861; in addition, a total of $31,063 was restricted for restoration projects.
The FFK partnership with the Bureau of Parks and Lands continued to involve contracted management services. FFK staff worked the fee collection booth, provided interpretive tours for school children and visitors, traffic/parking control and provided staff for the Penobscot Narrows Observatory. In addition, FFK provided bookkeeping, marketing and special event management services for BPL.
The total operational season visitor attendance at Fort Knox and the Penobscot Narrows Observatory was 70,420, during 2011. Attendance totals were down 13% from the previous year. Adding in Friends’ sponsored special events such as Fright at the Fort boosted overall attendance to 80,784. An interesting statistical comparison is found from a report issued by the Maine Tourism Association’s report of Visitor Center numbers, which were down 12%, in 2011.
Visitor Information Center
Interesting Fort/Observatory attendance statistics for 2011 are bulleted below:
* Over all exempt use (non paying admission) was down 17%. Exempt use includes Maine senior citizens; children under age 5, school groups, social service programs and season pass holders.
* Non-resident adult visitors were up 3% for the observatory while non-resident seniors dropped 2%.
* Observatory attendance was down 17% over 2011.
* Exempt school student visitation decreased by 17%.
* Special event visitor attendance increased by 5%.
Information in the report will be contained under general headings listed below.
This year’s major project involved the restoration of the northernmost interior Fort powder magazine.
The magazine, which has been closed to the public for decades, required extensive wood replacement and is being prepared for an educational exhibit. Unfortunately, due to the pervasive wood rot throughout the powder magazine, we were only able to retain one original wood wall.
The powder magazine has been illuminated and displays replica gunpowder barrels that would have been stored there during the 1860s. An official dedication ceremony for the new exhibit will take place this spring when the Fort reopens.
Volunteers are a crucial component to Friends of Fort Knox activities. A breakout in the number of volunteer hours for 2011 is listed below:
Estimated Volunteer Hours
FFK Board and Committees: 512 hours
FFK Gift Shop Volunteers: 640 hours
FFK Tour Guide: 420
FFK sponsored special event volunteers includes Park Day, Scottish Tattoo, 20th Maine, SCA, Fright at Fort: 2,800 hours
Total estimated Fort volunteer hours documented by the Friends: 4,372 and 303 volunteers.
Interpretive Tours- Another bright spot in this year’s annual report are the interpretive tours provided by Friends’ staff during 2011.
# of school group tours – 30 – 1,102 students
# of general public tours – 304 – 1,957
# of non school group tours – 36 - 959
Total # of tours – 370
Total # of individuals receiving a tour –4,018
Summer camps often visit the Fort and enjoy an educational tour by FFK staff.
Gate Staffing- Friends of Fort Knox personnel greeted visitors throughout the operating season, providing guidance and collecting admission fees. Gate personnel provided services seven days a week, 8 hours a day for the operating season (9 hours a day July/August).
Observatory Staffing- Beginning May 1, 2011, FFK provided two staff people, seven days a week, at 8.50 hours a day (9.5 hours July/August), to operate the observatory. FFK staff was trained by BPL personnel in CPR, first aid, emergency evacuation procedures and in the use of a defibrillator. Staff performed exceptionally during several emergency evacuations of the observatory due to elevator malfunctions.
The observatory looms in the summer sky awaiting daily visitors.
Special Events – Friends sponsored special events continued to please visitors with a variety of entertainment and educational demonstrations throughout the season. Notable special events included a Park Day cleanup, Maine Foster Care Family Day, Paranormal/Psychic Faire, Scottish Tattoo, Pirate Day, Medieval Tournament, 20th Maine Company ‘B’ Civil War reenactment, cannon firings, Civil War medical demonstration, Shakespeare, Fright at the Fort and a granite cutting demonstration.
The “Must Roos” pirate ship plies the waters off Fort Knox during Pirate Day activities and a Civil War cannon firing demonstration.
This year’s Fright at the Fort was particularly successful, attracting 9,134 guests over four-nights of Fright. In addition, the Fort is increasingly becoming a destination for wedding ceremonies and other group functions.
Building on the notoriety that the Fort garnered in the SyFy Channel’s Ghost Hunter TV program and with the volunteer help of a local paranormal investigation group, The East Coast Ghost Trackers, ghost tours were offered on four different occasions. These tours, which were held during early evening hours, provided a special event income boost.
Listed below are the four main income streams for FFK that span the past four years. Significant income growth was seen in the gate contract and special event categories. An increase was seen in the FFK gate contract percentage, due to the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands reverting back to a 50% fee collection split.
Income 2011 2010 2009 2008
Gift Shop- $90,723 $94,799 $98,007 $99,350
Special Events- $65,345 $58,606 $48,890 $59,174
Gate Contract - $82,493 $50,000 $90,124 $80,998
Contributions- $16,921 $48,451 $20,006 $81,517
Totals- $251,856 $257,027 $321,039 $309,725
Promotion and Public Education
The Friends of Fort Knox distributed over 8,000 newsletters to visitors to Fort Knox. The newsletters contained information on the history of the Fort, Friends’ restoration priorities and event schedules. Ongoing radio and television ads encouraging visitors to visit Fort Knox and the observatory aired throughout the season.
The Friends received a large amount of electronic and print media coverage throughout the year. The reopening of the observatory, restoration efforts and special events drove media coverage.
Future Restoration/Preservation Projects
The Friends of Fort Knox Board working in partnership with the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands have identified the need to repoint masonry of the granite blocks throughout the Fort. This project differs from our recent repointing efforts that focused on the bricks throughout the Fort. We are waiting for the Bureau to provide us with specifications and cost estimates on this new initiative prior to commencing work and seeking additional funds.