Visitors are welcome: Fort Wilkins State Park is open this summer

Fort Wilkins State Park is open this summer

Graham Jaehnig/Daily Mining Gazette Among major projects scheduled for Fort Wilkins State Historical Park this summer is replacing the roofs of the three officers’ barracks.

COPPER HARBOR — Despite rumors that the Fort Wilkins State Park will be closed this summer, the park, including the fort complex and the lighthouse, will be open as usual throughout the summer. However, from August 2024 through the spring of 2025, the park’s west loop of the of the campground will be closed for the construction of a new toilet and shower building.

“The building will get a complete tear down/rebuild of the west campground shower facility,” Barry James, administrator at the Michigan Iron Industry Museum, Negaunee, and historical exhibits and interpretation at Fort Wilkins State Park, Copper Harbor, said. “That was built in 1964, so it’s had a good run, but with these funds, we’re not only able to build new, but it will be a better experience for our visitors and more ADA-compliant and that sort of thing.”

Funding for the $1,000,000 project is part of proposed $2.23 million in relief funding through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

While the west campground will close in August, the east loop, sanitation station and camper cabin will remain open.

The new shower and toilet facility is not the only major project scheduled for this year. Other projects include replacement of stockade fence and glazing on all windows, construct new roofs on officer quarters, replacement of siding as needed on officer quarters, at $870,000.

James said the stockade, which spans two sides of the fort, is in dire need of repair. Repairs include replacing more than 900 cedar posts that are nine to 12 inches in diameter.

“Those were put in by the WPA in 1941,” James said, “so they’ve had a good run, but we’re starting to see more and more decay and parts falling down.”

While the stockade is being repaired, the original east gate, between the married enlisted men’s quarters and the bakery will also be reconstructed.

“With that, we’re going to build, based on a historic photograph from the 1860s, the original finials that sort of led people into the fort, as well as the gate that was attached to the east part of the stockade.”

The roofs all the three officers’ barracks, known as Officers’ Row will be replaced.

“The last time those were done was back in 1994,” James said. “The ARPA funds will also fund some painting on larger portions of buildings and also some foundation work.”

James said, in 2014, 14 sets of chimneys throughout the fort were repaired, and there are some remaining, along with the bakery, that need repairs.


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