Wow, where do I begin? I’m not sure this post can be anything but long winded to tell the tale I have to tell. I am writing this in response to some grumblings among the public I have heard/seen along the lines of “why doesn’t the Crockett Friends group give Jackie the support she deserves”. Well, we tried, we really did. So here goes….
First, a little history of our group and how things have been. Most of us have been part of the Davy Crockett Birthplace State Park for well over a decade and many of us have been with the friends group, at least on and off, for much of that time. We have been through park manager changes before, and while one never knows how the new manager will be towards old hands it has always went pretty well, overall. The majority of any issues we have had has been with the state itself. Dcbpsp has often had the feeling of being the ‘red-headed step-child’ of the state parks system. The friends group was designed to help fund historic events and to help fund education around the park and of 18th century life in general as well as David Crockett homestead and the man himself.
“I want this place to be the like our very own East Tennessee Dollywood” – Jackie Fischer
However, some of what we spent money on was to keep the park and park staff operational because the state wouldn’t come off with the funds just to keep it going day to day. For example, the friends group had to purchase printers, because the old ones were dying off and the State wouldn’t replace them. We also bought weed eaters, a wood splitter, etc. We faced this sort of thing on and off for years. So you can see why we held a bit if distrust with the state when it came to “our” park.
To be or not to be Sabine Hill…
Another point in contention is that we are familiar with the states “mood swings” when it comes to funding pet projects. The new park manager and her state cohorts came in explaining “money is no object. Everything we want done here is fully funded”. The words “Sabine Hill” immediately comes to mind. Another fully funded project that suddenly was no longer funded before it was finished.
ADA compliance and state contractors
The friends group and previous park managers have had many ideas for the park, including even some of what is being done now. But, we were always refused any work to be done in the name of “ADA compliance” and/or everything “must be done by a licensed contractor of the state”, which when boiled down means the state has to do it, meaning it has to be an idea of the state, not us. This was true even when we wanted to improve ADA compliance, such as the rocky, grassy roll off from the wheelchair ramp to the lower area by the river where many of our renactment functions were held. The state flatly refused it. Our hands were tied.
When asked about the future of ADA compliance we were told flatly “we won’t need to worry about that as long as we are creating a true historic location”. That told us ADA compliance is no longer a thing. Her initial plan was to have the historic area accessible from the museum office only. So think about that, if you park in the parking lot and need to walk uphill to the museum, then walk downhill to the historic area and back again, that’s a long trek to negotiate if you are mobile impaired.
The state licensed contracting of work seems to also have been removed. Jackie made it clear that she would have volunteers do most of the work she wants done. And she would require they be in 18th century clothing and use 18th century tools only. Sounds great on paper, but there is zero account for insurance needs, in a construction area of the state. Still sound great? We didn’t think so either and that was another question of contention. We were also told in the past that state contractors were required so they could do the ADA compliance with each job done.
Jackie stated in several meeting that all events were to become “juried events”. What that means is if you wear 21st century eye glasses you either can’t take part in events at the park or you go around all day without being able to see without your glasses, or you shell out several hundred dollars for glasses that will be judged proper that you may only wear once or twice a year, an option not everyone can afford. Jackie stated that this “will increase the number of reenactors that want to join in the park events”. What she fails to understand is (and was brought up in questions that she deemed “attacking”) is that the trade off is you will lose many true local reenactors that can’t afford to jump through her juried hoops, the ones that are doing it because they have a love of history and the Davy Crockett Birthplace State Park itself. Crockett park has never had juried events, we emphasize fun for everyone first and foremost.
Crockett Friends income and expenses
Our income and expenses are low. Aside from buying supplies for the park, our primary expense is Crockett Days. We spare little expense in making this namesake event as great as it can be for visitors, reenactors, and even park staff. Our income is marginal and for the most part trickles in. Our primary money maker was firewood sales at the campground. For a long time we would have volunteers cut and split already dead trees on the park. The state decided that all firewood had to be kiln dried and inspected, even if the previous firewood came from within the park. We found a source that donated all the kiln dried wood we could need, free of charge aside from our expense to go there and get it. This wood wasn’t state inspected but as it turns out (and I found out later on) that the park manager has final say on this ruling and it was fine as long as it was truly kiln dried. When Jackie came in she told us that we could no longer sell this firewood and also told us it was the decision of the state and she had no say in the matter. So there goes our primary #1 source of income. We also earned money selling ice, but after purchasing it and then reselling it for a slight markup there’s not a lot of profit in that. That leaves memberships and donations as our only other source of income, which to be honest, would be great if it was more, but it isn’t. Jackie went on to inform us that we could supplement our income selling hot chocolate, which is slightly more profitable than watching grass grow.
The $2000 straw that broke the camel’s back
Jackie took over somewhere around November-December. Bad weather combined with other obligations, jobs, etc led us to cancel January and February meetings (we are, after all, a volunteer group and real life happens). This has never been a big deal anyway since the park is pretty dead in the winter months. In comes our first meeting with Jackie and one of the first things she says is how poorly run and mismanaged our group is and that she has “never dealt with such a poorly run group as this before”. Way to kick start a brand new relationship there, right? Shortly after that she asks the friends group to pay $2000 for someone she knows to come in from out of state and show the local people how to build a cabin, hands on. This, right after removing most of our income source, and insulting the Friends Group and she asks for 1/3 of our total assets? Perhaps and maybe if she wanted to pay someone local, we have locals nearby that can do just that. The group voted no and she abruptly ended the meeting.
During this same meeting we tried to extend an olive branch, letting her know it wasn’t her and her ideas we didn’t like as much as it was we didn’t trust the state to follow through. We told her one of our fears for all this was the state would pull funds before it was done and leave a big mud bowl mess. She let us know if we talked bad about the state we were talking bad about her since she now worked for the state. She hasn’t worked for state long enough to have a real sense if how the state park system works, at least for us in the past. Also, we told her we even like most of the ideas being presented, for that matter some of these ideas we had thought of years ago, just to be told there wasn’t funding or we couldn’t do it for no real reason. We told her we didn’t like the haphazard and seemingly careless way it was being done, and seems to be in one hellofa rush to make happen, and many of our real world questions were going unanswered. And for the fact that there was no input asked of anyone, not the friends, not the current staff at the time, not the local public, no one, nothing. The only meetings that were held were basically to tell us all this is what’s going to happen and if you don’t like it, too bad.
During that same meeting Jackie told us she would not be living in the park manager’s house adjacent to the park but would in fact be going to her home in North Carolina on the weekends. A bit later she stated the park was going to be a fully functional homestead complete with livestock, specifically chickens and pigs. If any of you reading this have any experience with a critter farm you know that it’s a 24 hr job. We asked her questions (you know, “attacking her”) about that. For example, livestock must have food and water everyday. Who will do that? Who will chase chickens and pigs when they get out? Cause if you know livestock, they get out sometimes. Who’s going to make sure the livestock doesn’t get stolen? It’s a real possibility, especially given that Jackie seems to be having real staffing issues.
And since we’re on the subject of theft, when she came in she decided that the cabin (that was) would not be locked and she had the locking bars removed. We “attacked” her about this too, and explained there was a reason there were locking bars on the cabin. We also told her that even with the locking bars locked in place things still walked away on a five finger discount. She wouldn’t hear any of it, lets face it, she didn’t want our input on anything. That’s what I believe today, she didn’t care what any of us said or asked, it was her way or the highway. So, all of us that had anything of our own inside the cabin made a mad dash to reclaim our belongings before they walked away on their own.
The perfect schedule, if you don’t want anyone to show up
So, comes along the next meeting a few days later. It’s a PSA meeting with other state officials as well as Jackie. The public is invited to attend for questions and comments. This meeting is scheduled for Thursday, 2:00 pm, which is the perfect schedule, if you don’t want anyone to show up that has a job. Funny thing is, the little room in that building was full of people. Questions went at the state park rep left and right. He even said, and I quote, “I didn’t come here to get attacked”. WTF???? You came here on a schedule that you didn’t think anyone would show up, but when they did you didn’t want to answer questions?? What is wrong with you people??
There were a few of us from the friends group at this meeting and they tried to reach out to Jackie one more time after the official PSA meeting was over. It was here that she said “I don’t need your group, or your money”. This seemed like a perfect invitation by Jackie that we were all invited to go f** off. She also stated to the other state park representatives that the previous meeting was “like going into a room full of pitbulls”!! One of our board members resigned that same night and another one resigned a short time later.
With all the focus on the historic accuracies planned for the park, some of what was proposed is completely inaccurate. For example, they stated they want to install Palisades around the campground to work as a visual blockade from the modern part of the park to the historic area. Palisades, in case you’re not familiar, are the large telephone pole like posts planted in the ground with a sharpened pointed end at the top. These are accurate for the time period with forts, but wouldn’t have been on a farmstead. Again in fairness it’s a good idea, but should be done with something more accurate, like a dense row of trees. Yeah, you guessed it, more attacking.
What’s to become of the park?
In all fairness, as mentioned previously, we like at least some of what is being done. So far it’s a big mess out there. The flat land that was perfect for throwing ball or frisbee or what have you is gone, taken in what will eventually be homestead. We still wish her well. But we no longer feel the same kinship to the park we once loved. The park represented fun, it’s no longer fun. We have grown to be friends with all the staff, rangers, and managers that have come and gone. After we were shunned away we learned that Jackie had moved the other rangers’ offices to the campground building, in January, where there was no heat, or insulation in the building. Any wonder why they all went AWOL? From what I’m hearing from my sources Jackie is blaming everyone else for the personnel problems she faces. Of course she does, but let me tell you, there’s one common denominator in ALL of this and it’s name is Jackie Fischer!