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Living History: Fort Snelling’s Civil War Weekend and State Budget Cuts.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about Minnesota, is that there’s a lot to see and do here. Just this past weekend, I visited at historic Fort Snelling to learn more about life on the frontier during the Civil War era. Seeing all of the parents bringing their kids and watching their eyes light up when the reenactors demonstrated 19th-century infantry techniques brought me back to my childhood, when my parents used to take me to watch Civil War battle reenactments at Fort Tejon in California.

I shared this with one of the long-time Minnesota Historical Society volunteers there that day, and she told me it wasn’t uncommon to have parents bring their children back to Fort Snelling based on their childhood memories. When I asked her about how Governor Pawlenty’s cuts to the historical society budget, she said she wasn’t quite sure. She mentioned that one of Fort Snelling’s buildings is often included on a list of "most endangered historical sites" and that the historical society’s budget has been year after year for many years. But the most recent cuts championed by Pawlenty and his allies in the legislature are especially painful:

The Minnesota Historical Society said today it may lay off nearly 100 employees, cut the hours of another 220, and close some historic sites in the state as a result of cuts in its state funding and the poor economy. The cuts amount to 16 percent of the agency’s overall budget.

The plan is based on expected cuts in the Society’s funding from the state of Minnesota, as well as the effects of the current economic downturn.

But these numbers don’t tell the whole story. Because of the budget cuts, Fort Snelling has had to reduce its hours of operations and program offerings, a trend that’s being repeated at wading pools and city parks across the state, limiting the educational (and recreational) opportunities that are available to the next generation of Minnesotans.

Growing up and going to places like Fort Tejon — places where history came to life — opened my eyes up to the larger physical and historical worlds around me and helped me develop my intellectual curiosity.  I think every child deserves the opportunity to have a similar experience.

If you want to see more pictures from Fort Snelling’s Civil War Weekend, click here.

Next week, ABM is hitting the road for a road trip to find out the real stories behind the statistics about the reckless budget cuts championed by Governor Pawlenty and his allies in the legislature.

Stories like the one above help ensure that the voices of real Minnesotans aren’t left out of discussions of the cuts. So please share your story and help us protect the "above average" Minnesota that we all know and love.

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