George Rogers Clark National Historical Park was established to commemorate the actions of George Rogers Clark and his Big Knives in the winter of 1778-1779. Their surprise attack and capture of Fort Sackville secured the Old Northwest for the fledgling American republic and set the stage for the creation of a continental nation.
Dedicated in 1936, the Clark memorial passed through a number of administrative entities before the Park Service assumed responsibility in 1966. After construction of the memorial was authorized in 1928, the George Rogers Clark Sesquicentennial Commission maintained authority over the project until 1940. Between 1940 and the arrival of the Park Service, the Indiana Department of Conservation administered the area.
When the National Park Service began to manage George Rogers Clark National Historical Park, few of the facilities and amenities of a modern park area were extant. Initial agency effort was devoted to basic management and interpretation. Only after a number of years did the Park Service acquire the funds to begin serious capital development.
The development of the park depended on the construction of a visitor center. For complex reasons, this project became extremely controversial not only within the agency, but with the public as well. Park Service efforts to adhere to new regulations complicated its relationship with the community. In the end, officials and local leaders orchestrated a compromise, and the visitor center was constructed.
Maintenance of the memorial structure and grounds has been the major burden of agency management at George Rogers Clark National Historical Park. The memorial has numerous problems, the most vexing of which is ongoing leaking. When the Park Service arrived in Vincennes, officials believed the problems of the structure resulted from a dearth of resources available to previous management entities. More than twenty-five years of experience has suggested that the problems of the memorial are endemic, and as the memorial structure ages, maintenance will remain a major budget item at the park.
For managers at George Rogers Clark National Historical Park, relationships with the Vincennes community remain extremely important. The people of the area see the park as their own and feel a proprietary interest in its activities. The result is an urban park situation, where park managers have to respond to the demands of the community as well as the rules and regulations of the Park Service and the Department of the Interior. In the early 1990s, as resources became more scarce and people across the nation were asked to do more with less, this relationship had the potential to effect management decisions at the park.
Last Updated: 28-Jul-2006