Administrative History
NPS Logo

Chapter Five:


Independence from Kings Mountain presented Pat Stanek a full range of issues with which to contend: administration, financial management, staffing, visitor services, interpretation, community relations, resources management, and park protection. To carry out these responsibilities, Stanek supervised a permanent staff that usually consisted of an administrative officer, a clerk, several rangers, and two or three maintenance workers. This staff was supplemented by seasonal employees and the YCC program, which continued in 1982 after skipping a year due to lack of funding. In managing park operations, Stanek oversaw park-level implementation of different NPS initiatives. The oil crisis of the 1970s and subsequent programs of the Carter Administration sparked an NPS energy conservation program during the late 1970s and early 1980s. At Cowpens this resulted in reduced park vehicle use, increased recycling, and energy efficiency improvements to existing facilities. Another NPS initiative involved programs to provide equal employment opportunities for minorities. At Cowpens the initiative resulted in outreach efforts aimed at African-Americans. In 1984 Stanek created the park's first equal opportunity program complete with an affirmative action plan, a policy statement, and a staff committee to oversee the process. The most immediate result of this program was a racially balanced YCC team in 1984. [1]

By the mid-1980s, Stanek was faced with serious financial constraints as the park's base funding proved inadequate to meet basic operation needs. The 1984 fiscal budget forced the park to institute further energy conservation measures, give up two park vehicles, leave a vacated clerical position unfilled, and hire only one seasonal employee. The presence of eight YCC enrollees during the summer eased the staffing situation as the enrollees performed landscaping, maintenance, clerical, and visitor survey tasks. Although the administrative staff was limited in 1984 with the unfilled clerical position, the park was able to begin computerizing much of its administrative paperwork with the purchase of its first computer. [2]

After Stanek transferred to the Southeast Regional Office in September 1984, William T. Springer was appointed superintendent. An NPS employee since 1977, Springer had been educated in resources management. His previous assignments were as a planner in the Denver Service Center, environmental coordinator in the Southeast Regional Office, and chief ranger at Cape Lookout National Seashore in North Carolina. At Cowpens, Springer's immediate concerns included preparing and updating park management documents, dealing with the tight budgetary situation, and reviewing the park's organization and operation. [3]

Surprised by the lack of "necessary basic guidance documents" as mandated by the NPS operations manual, Springer immediately assigned his staff to write the required documents. Between 1984 and 1985, the park produced a statement for management, a resources management plan, a land protection plan, a documented safety management and loss control program, and purchasing guidelines. The park's statement for management identified several key management issues, including landscape restoration, resources management, and a needed updating of the 1975 master plan that had guided the park's development. [4] Specifically, the statement for management recommended that the living history farm, bridle path, and environmental study area envisioned in the original master plan be "reevaluated in light of present-day fiscal realities." [5]

Even with the earlier cutbacks under Stanek, Springer's budget for fiscal year 1985 devoted ninety percent of operating funds to permanent staff costs, leaving little or no funding for expenses such as seasonal employees, staff training, and park supplies. [6] In making his case to the regional office for an increase in the park's base funding, Springer warned that "the bottom line is that we are in a desperate situation." [7]

With no budgetary relief in sight, Springer proposed a major change in the park's administrationclustering Cowpens with Ninety Six National Historic Site, which was nearby. Like Cowpens, Ninety Six was a smaller park unit associated with the American Revolution. The park was the site of a fort during the French and Indian War, a village during the 1760s, and three Revolutionary War battles. The South Carolina General Assembly had created the Star Fort Historical Commission in 1963 to establish a park at Ninety Six, and the site had come under NPS management in 1976. Ninety Six was slightly larger than Cowpens in authorized acreage989 acres and 847 acres respectively. On the other hand, Cowpens usually attracted more visitors than the more isolated Ninety Six. [8]

When Ninety Six Superintendent Robert S. Armstrong transferred to the Southeast Regional Office in February 1985, Springer was appointed acting superintendent in addition to his position as superintendent at Cowpens. Under this new arrangement, both parks shared an administrative staff consisting of a superintendent and an administrative officer, but all other staff positions were assigned strictly to one park or the other. The superintendent and administrative officer were stationed at Cowpens. Although the two parks were ninety miles apart, the new arrangement proved feasible since most staff positions were not shared. In addition to savings in administrative costs, the clustering of the two parks provided Springer and future superintendents with increased resources and influence with the Southeast Regional Office. [9]

During Springer's administration, the issue of entrance fees arose. A new NPS policy in 1985 required parks to start charging fees for the use of recreational facilities by groups. At Cowpens, this new policy affected only the park's picnic area. Two years later, however, the Southeast Regional Office directed some twenty Southeast Region parks, including Cowpens, to charge all park visitors an entrance fee. Effective from May through October, the fee proceeds were earmarked to fund park projects. Cowpens was thus temporarily forced to suspend its charge for the interpretive audiovisual program Daybreak at the Cowpens. The new policy presented a problem because the park produced the film in cooperation with businessman Arthur Magill who had an agreement with the Eastern National Parks and Monument Association to share proceeds. Springer also believed that entrance fee proceeds would be too little to justify disgruntling some visitors. In 1988 entrance fees were charged for a second and final season. Thereafter, the regional office, probably in response to concerned superintendents like Springer, removed Cowpens and other small parks from the entrance fee program. The park then resumed charging for its audiovisual program. [10]

In July 1987 Springer transferred to the regional office and was replaced by Armstrong. An NPS employee since 1972, Armstong had worked as chief of interpretation and resources management at the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument in Florida, northern district ranger for the Natchez Trace Parkway, first superintendent of Ninety Six, and a regional office staff member. Armstrong continued the management direction of previous superintendents. Like Springer, he served as superintendent of both parks. In addition to the shared administrative staff, Cowpens had two park rangers, two maintenance workers, and four seasonal positions; Ninety Six had a historian, a park ranger, two maintenance workers, and five seasonal positions. In 1991 Armstrong oversaw the revision of several park management documents, including the statement for management, the land protection plan, and the resources management plan. He continued the park's equal employment opportunity program with recruitment efforts at local colleges. Armstrong was able to recruit an African-American Limestone College student as a seasonal employee in 1991 thanks to help from a history professor at the college. The position was terminated due to lack of funds several years later. The YCC program also continued sporadically; for example, half a dozen enrollees worked at the park during the summer of 1993. [11]

In 1993 Armstrong was replaced as superintendent by Sibbald Smith, who had served as superintendent of Ocmulgee National Monument in Georgia and Canaveral National Seashore in Florida. Although Smith's superintendency was cut short by his retirement in April 1994, he still managed to alter the cluster arrangement between Cowpens and Ninety Six. Smith stationed his office at Ninety Six, while the administrative officer continued to be stationed at Cowpens. More importantly, he reorganized the staff so that the two parks shared a historian, the first nonadministrative staff position to be divided between the two parks. Smith was replaced by Farrell Saunders, who had previously served as superintendent of the clustered Russell Cave National Monument and Little River Canyon National Preserve. Although Saunders restationed his office back at Cowpens, he continued Smith's expansion of the shared staff by splitting a law enforcement ranger and an interpretive ranger between the two parks. Having served as superintendent since 1994, Saunders has been able to provide stability after several relatively short-term park administrations and associated reorganizations. [12]

The 1990s continued to present Cowpens with the major dilemma of the 1980slimited funding and staff to deal with rising visitation levels. Total visitation for the park increased from 125,000 in 1990 to 179,000 in 1998; however, the park's budget and staffing stagnated and, in some cases, even decreased during that time period. The budgetary situation was affected by the park's status as a small park competing for base funding each year against large parks within the Southeast Region. However, in 1998 the park's base budget was increased by $75,000. With this funding it increased seasonal hires and added a full-time employee. Staffing changes also occurred in the late 1990s when all split positions between Cowpens and Ninety Six were returned to the individual parks. Only the superintendent and administrative positions are now shared. In 1997, the NPS began a park-by-park strategic planning process mandated by the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA). Working with park and regional staffs, Saunders and Chief Ranger Patricia Ruff developed a GPRA plan for Cowpens that included five-year goals. Among the plan's priorities were battlefield landscape restoration, resources management, interpretation, and safety. Using public service workers from county and federal probation programs, the park was able to boost its manpower for maintenance projects during the late 1990s. [13]

Park Development Activities

Because Cowpens is a young park, only minor development activities have occurred since the completion of its facilities. Park staff, YCC help, and local Boy Scout troops have provided the main source of labor. In 1984 a joint sealant was applied and a drain field was installed at the visitor center to fix a leaking foundation. The picnic shelter received a new roof in 1991. Two years later, a bridge on the environmental trail was replaced with a new structure using steel instead of telephone poles. Improvements to the maintenance area in 1995 involved removal of two underground storage tanks, installation of above-ground storage tanks, and paving of the parking area. In addition, the administrative office at one of the park's houses received more parking spaces. [14]

Between 1997 and 1999, the park undertook several major upgrades to visitor facilities. Allsteel Products Company completed rehabilitation work on the park's asphalt walking trails, including removal of existing asphalt, rebuilding of shoulders, and placing of aggregate base and asphalt. The comfort stations at the visitor center and the picnic area were rehabilitated by Sossamon Construction Company in 1998 with new automated fixtures installed. In addition, the visitor center itself was improved with a new roof, gutters, and downspouts; new carpeting; and repainting. Last, wheelchair access ramps were installed at the park in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. [15]

Not all pre-park structures were removed during the development of Cowpens. Three modern ranch houses on the road along the southern park boundary were retained. To supplement its income, the park rented these houses to locals under rental rates and procedures established by the federal government for its properties. By the mid-1990s, however, these rates proved too high for the local housing market. With the houses sitting vacant for lack of tenants, the park utilized them for other purposes. In 1995 one house became the new administrative office for the superintendent and administrative staff of Cowpens and Ninety Six. To acquire more space, this office was relocated to another of the three houses in 1999. A second house became a guest residence for visiting researchers and others. One house continues to sit vacant. [16]

With regard to land ownership at Cowpens, as with facility development, little has changed since the park's creation. In 1984 Superintendent Stanek provided a few acres of park property to the South Carolina State Highway Department in return for turn lanes on Highway 11 at the park entrance. Superintendent Springer's 1985 land protection plan outlined the overall management situation. The federal government owned 788.71 acres within the authorized park boundary with the remaining 52.85 acres consisting of the state-owned highway rights-of-way and inholdings belonging to the New Pleasant Baptist Church and the Daniel Morgan Rural Community Water District. Anticipating no negative developments with the inholdings or adjacent properties, the plan recommended no further land acquisition efforts. On the contrary, it even recommended selling 2.95 acres of federal property located outside the authorized boundary, representing remnant tracts acquired during park development. By the time the land protection plan was revised in 1987, however, this situation had changed. Superintendent Armstrong feared the encroachment of developments in areas surrounding the park, especially given Cherokee County's lack of zoning. The upgrading of utilities in the community raised the possibility of industrial growth. Furthermore, the surrounding area was becoming more residential, especially with the proliferation of mobile homes. The park had already planted pine trees to screen two mobile homes on Highway 110. Given these trends, the revised plan and subsequent updates recommended that the NPS maintain possession of the tracts outside of the park boundary. An additional 2.19 acres was acquired from the South Carolina Department of Transportation by Superintendent Saunders in 2000. This property was needed for a trailhead by the Overmountain Victory Trail Committee, a local organization developing a multi-use trail from Cowpens to Kings Mountain. The property will also be used as a parking area to replace the existing one outside the park's entrance gate, which has been declared unsafe by regional engineers. [17]

Community Relations

A key responsibility of the staff at Cowpens has been maintaining a positive relationship with the surrounding community and the public in general. A coordinated public relations strategy was especially critical during the first years of the battlefield's operation. As Superintendent Stanek explained in 1982, "We are in the process of going through 'the new kid on the block' stage. A great deal of time is spent in explaining 'who we are' and 'why we do as we do.' It is a somewhat sensitive period." [18] Cowpens has undertaken a number of proactive efforts over the years to maintain positive public relations. For example, in 1987 the park provided annual passes to local residents who frequently visited the battlefield. The park has also been active in local organizations. Chief Ranger Ruff served on the board of the local council of the Spartanburg Area Chamber of Commerce during the late 1990s. There have been occasions when the park has suffered public relations setbacks due to factors beyond its control. In both 1990 and 1996, the park was closed for brief periods of time during government shutdowns caused by congressional budget battles; most people did not blame the park, however. [19]

park staff
Figure 18: Park staff photograph, 1991. Women from left: Michelle Lester, Linda Parks, Rhonda Gossett, Pat Ruff, Virginia Fowler. Men from left: Bill Kianas, Superintendent Bob Armstrong, Billy Greenway, Marvin Shards, and Fred Seelow

One of the most important public relations issues at Cowpens has been the park's rapport with the Daniel Morgan Rural Community Water District concerning the district's half-acre lot within the park's boundary. When the water district presented plans to construct an elevated water tank on the property in 1987, the park cautioned that such a structure could be an intrusive development. The district eventually built the tank at another site closer to Chesnee. With that in mind, Superintendent Armstrong unsuccessfully sought to purchase the half-acre lot from the water district in 1991. Relations between the park and the district were strained during the mid-1990s when the water district announced its intentions to use its lot within the park as an office site. Alarmed by the water district's plans to place a mobile home on the tract in 1994, park and district officials met to find a compromise solution. With the "bad feelings brought about through condemnation of property by the park in recent years," Superintendent Saunders believed that "working with this group would improve relations in the community." [20] The final agreement granted the water district space in the park's administrative office in exchange for providing water at no cost for park operations and fire protection. The agreement has proved so successful that it has been continued. The water district has also indicated its willingness to grant a scenic easement on its half-acre property to protect the park from visual intrusion by any elevated water tower or other construction. [21]

As another way to improve relations with surrounding communities, the park has sought to recruit local citizens as volunteers. Much of the volunteer work at Cowpens has been sponsored through the Volunteer in the Parks (VIP) program. Under the authorizing congressional act in 1969, the NPS can distribute funds to parks for volunteer-related expenses such as supplies, travel, and other incidental costs. Over the years, volunteers have assisted with various clerical, maintenance, and interpretive tasks, including living history programs. [22]

Volunteers that Cowpens has nurtured over the years include military reenactors. These volunteers have been essential to the park's effort to have living history military demonstrations for both the regular interpretive program as well as special events. The reenactors have included locals who regularly volunteered for small interpretive demonstrations such as musket firings or cannon firings. In accordance with NPS regulations, each of these volunteers has had to be certified in the safe use of black powder. The park has also seen participation by various reenactment groups from across the nation in special events, such as the annual battle anniversaries. Park staff coordinated these events with the reenactment groups and provided overnight housing at facilities like the Chesnee Community Center. In addition, the park has allowed area groups to use the site to practice for reenactments at other parks, including the Yorktown reenactment in 1981. Occasional conflicts have arisen over the years between the park and reenactment groups. For example, the Second Continental Light Dragoons, a group from Connecticut, refused to participate in future Cowpens special events after the 1985 battle anniversary celebration. The group was upset over NPS regulations forbidding reenactments that portray opposing forces in battle action. [23] NPS policy views such reenactments as "inconsistent with the memorial qualities of the battlefields." [24]

In 1983 local battlefield supporters led by Dr. J.N. Lipscomb received a charter from the state for the Cowpens Battlefield Association as a private group to assist with "the educational, historical and interpretive activities of the Cowpens National Battlefield." [25] The organization grew out of the Cowpens Celebration Committee, a group of volunteers that assisted with the annual battle anniversaries. The association's initial board of directors included Arthur Magill, Professor Bobby Moss of Limestone College, and Wilhelmina Dearybury. After sagging attendance at its monthly meetings, the association decided to switch to quarterly meetings in 1985. [26] After only two people attended the April meeting, Superintendent Springer voiced his "concern about the health of and interest in the Association." [27] After a couple of years of inactivity, Springer recommended that the association be disbanded in 1987. Although the association had provided significant support in the early years, Springer believed that the present lack of interest indicated that the park should work with supporters without a formal organization. In 1993 the association was reorganized, and the next year the organization was recreated as the Friends of Cowpens in an effort spearheaded by Chief Ranger Ruff. The park has suffered the deaths of key supporters over the past two decades, including Lipscomb in 1987 and Manning in 1999. However, Cowpens has continued to build community support through its VIP program, Friends of Cowpens, and other efforts. [28]

Indeed, after his tenure at Cowpens began, Superintendent Saunders set out to revitalize community interest in and support for the park by speaking to local groups about the importance of the Battle of Cowpens. From this time also, the park began to develop partnerships with local, county, and state organizations working to improve understanding of the Southern Campaign in the Revolutionary War, a theme many park superintendents believe is under-appreciated by most Americans. For example, in 1995 the park became involved with the Carolinas Backcountry Alliance, a group of local, county, state, and federal parks and sites and other parties dedicated to promoting tourism and interest in the American Revolution in a geographic area running roughly from Camden, South Carolina, to Hillsborough, North Carolina. More recently, the park has worked with the "Cradle of Democracy" campaign, an effort developed in late 2000 by the Palmetto Conservation Foundation. In conjunction with South Carolina's Parks, Recreation and Tourism Department and all state sites relating to the American Revolution, the campaign is designed to combine resources and expertise to educate the public on the significance of the contributions of South Carolina in the Revolutionary War. By spring 2001, Cowpens was developing a memorandum of understanding with various parties interested in the effort. Finally, the park is participating in the development of the 225th Committee for the American Revolution. The committee, composed of NPS sites in the Southeast Region, along with the Southeast Regional and Northeast Regional Offices, has produced a brochure, "The American Revolution at a Glance"; a web site; a logo with motto honoring the 225th anniversary of the war; and many other projects. The park has helped insure that Cowpens is a featured site in all these efforts.

<<< Previous <<< Contents >>> Next >>>
Last Updated: 10-Dec-2002