Hopewell Culture
Administrative History
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CHAPTER FOUR
Administering the Mound City Group (continued)



National Park Service Staff

Following the March 1962 transfer of Clyde B. King, John C. W. ("Bill") Riddle arrived on September 7, 1962, to become Mound City Group's second superintendent. This represented Bill Riddle's first superintendency, having served as district ranger at Acadia National Park, Maine, with previous assignments at Gettysburg National Military Park, Pennsylvania; and Colonial National Historical Park, Virginia. A management inspection conducted by Northeast Regional Administrative Officer John J. Bachensky found Mound City Group operations "very compact, direct, and efficient" and the four permanent staff in conformance with the Group 'A' category, a designation indicating the monument functioned at a basic operations level with minimal staff. Bachensky foresaw no further increases for permanent or temporary personnel. The staff included Superintendent Riddle, Administrative Aide (vacant), Maintenanceman J. Vernon Acton, and Archeologist Richard Faust. Three seasonal positions included a laborer, information-receptionist, and ranger-historian. [1]

Riddle held the first staff meeting in Mound City Group history on November 26, 1962. The exercise received such high praise that Riddle resolved to hold regular meetings at least twice per month. Riddle hardly had time to adjust to his new position for by mid-June 1965, he transferred to the superintendency of Hopewell Village National Historic Site, Pennsylvania. [2] Administrative Aide Delmar G. Peterson became acting superintendent until James W. Coleman, Jr., entered on duty on July 19, 1965. Coleman, a second-generation Park Service employee, formerly served as historian at Manassas National Battlefield Park, Virginia. [3]

As a newly-developed park with daily operations static and routine, the Mound City Group superintendency ideally lent itself as a training position for new managers preparing themselves for more challenging positions elsewhere. Like his immediate predecessor, Coleman remained at Mound City Group for only two years. On July 2, 1967, Coleman transferred to Saratoga National Historical Park, New York. Coleman's replacement, George F. Schesventer, the former management assistant at George Washington Birthplace National Monument, Virginia, took over the job on July 30, 1967. It was under Schesventer's superintendency that NPS Director George B. Hartzog, Jr.'s, policy of having "state coordinators" became implemented. The politically astute Hartzog ordered one NPS superintendent per state be designated as the bureau's "eyes, ears, and mouth." The coordinator position was a key link between state and federal park and historic preservation programs, and Hartzog intended it to give NPS an elevated profile in state and local political circles. Chillicothe, in close proximity to Columbus, made Mound City Group's superintendent the logical choice to be state coordinator. [4]

Mound City Group NM staff
Figure 37: Mound City Group National Monument staff: (left to right) Kathleen Allyn, Virginia Skaggs, Walter Fraley, Linda Shreve, Nicholas Veloz, Susan Brady, J. Vernon Acton, and George Schesventer. (NPS/Phillip Egan, June 10, 1969)

In addition to his liaison role, Schesventer also assumed superintendent responsibilities for William Howard Taft National Historic Site in Cincinnati upon its authorization by Congress on December 2, 1969. Schesventer continued in that capacity until December 3, 1970. The following day, at the behest of Director George Hartzog, the Ohio National Park Service Group was established with headquarters at Mound City Group National Monument. Taft, along with Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial, were linked with Mound City Group and administered by the Office of the General Superintendent physically located at Mound City Group. Schesventer was not designated general superintendent of the new entity, however, as he transferred on March 6, 1971, to assume the superintendency of Castillo de San Marcos and Fort Matanzas National Monuments, Florida.

Taking his place in Chillicothe and filling the new Ohio NPS Group general superintendency, William C. ("Bill") Birdsell began his duties on March 7, 1971. [5] Public relations was at the heart of Birdsell's position as he acknowledged in early 1974: "It became apparent shortly after the Office of the General Superintendent was established that NPS public relations in the State of Ohio were in need of top priority attention. It was of major concern to us," Birdsell wrote, "that U.S. Representatives and Senators and the Governor and his staff were not even aware of National Park Service areas in their state, and that most local townspeople had never visited their neighboring NPS sites." [6]

Tying Park Service units together to achieve economy and coordination in operations had long been a favored practice. Grouping all NPS units within a state under one general superintendent represented something tried in several other areas, but largely discarded after the 1970s, particularly after President Richard M. Nixon's December 1972 firing of NPS Director Hartzog. [7] Remarkably, Bill Birdsell had not previously been a superintendent before he received his new assignment with Hartzog's blessing. [8]

Superintendent William C. Birdsell
Figure 38: Superintendent William C. ("Bill") Birdsell. (NPS/Betty White, May 1974)

Although Birdsell continued to lobby for it, he was unsuccessful in getting Northeast Region approval to fill the park manager position for Mound City Group in order for Birdsell to devote full-time to state coordinator and Ohio NPS Group duties. [9] In fact, the Ohio NPS Group existed only through the strength of Birdsell's personality. It never received a separate budget allocation. Instead, Birdsell was forced to skim funding from all three Ohio park units, but with extra amounts taken from William Howard Taft National Historic Site which had yet to be restored and made fully operational. Birdsell staffed his office with Administrative Technician Joan Crider, Secretary Virginia Skaggs, and Clerk-Typist Rhonda Hughes. George Kane, the only NPS ranger in Ohio, divided his time between Mound City Group and the visitor season at Perry's Victory. Ohio NPS Group employees Birdsell, Skaggs, and Hughes took care of administrative and clerical matters for Mound City Group, with interpretation and maintenance remaining as the only full-time permanent function allotted for Mound City Group. Park Technician Bonnie Meyer took care of visitor services and interpretation for four summer seasons at Perry's Victory before transferring to Mound City Group in winter 1973-74 to fill a permanent position. [10]

On January 6, 1974, following establishment of the Rocky Mountain Region, NPS underwent a fundamental shift of boundaries. The Ohio parks, already subjected to two previous regional realignments (Region One/Richmond and Region Five/ Northeast Region, Philadelphia), found themselves shifted yet a third time to the purview of Midwest Regional Office with headquarters in Omaha, Nebraska. Effective March 1, 1974, the administrative transfer took place and Ohio NPS Group began reporting to Midwest Regional Director J. Leonard Volz. [11] While the Northeast Region directorate favored "grouping" parks, officials in Omaha did not. Termination of the Ohio NPS Group became imminent. Upon authorization of Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area on June 26, 1975, Bill Birdsell, who as state coordinator had served as project keyman for the proposed unit sandwiched between Cleveland and Akron, Ohio, became the new park's superintendent. Effective July 1, 1975, the Ohio Group dissolved. All four Ohio parks became autonomous with their superintendents reporting to Omaha. When Birdsell left Chillicothe on July 21, he took his state coordinator duties with him. [12]

That was not all Birdsell took with him. In addition to using Mound City Group personnel to perform maintenance and administrative tasks prior to hiring his own staff, Birdsell took Mound City Group capitalized equipment, including a vehicle, and other materials to Cuyahoga Valley. When Fred J. Fagergren arrived in Chillicothe to replace Birdsell on October 26, 1975, he found the unauthorized transfer of property intolerable. Fagergren complained to Regional Director Volz that not only would he have to debit his own budget to replace the items, he resented the fact that Cuyahoga Valley, as a new area, would henceforth automatically receive priority funding at levels higher than Mound City Group's. [13]

Superintendent Fred Fagergren, Jr.
Figure 39: Superintendent Fred Fagergren, Jr. (NPS/Theresa Nichols, January 1979)

An operations evaluation report in February 1976 conducted by Midwest Region personnel concurred with Fagergren and recommended expedited replacement of the "fairly significant list of property and supplies" removed from Mound City Group. In examining the de-clustering of the Ohio parks, the team reported it "has had [a] less positive effect on Mound City than on the other units." Grade-level re-evaluations were recommended for the superintendent, administrative technician, and secretary, and the team urged speedy review and approval of a new park organizational chart. [14]

Superintendent Fagergren's tenure at Mound City Group spanned five years. Like Coleman, Fagergren was a second-generation Park Service employee. Mound City Group represented his first park management assignment, and Fagergren was its first superintendent with a degree in anthropology. Fagergren's administration embodied a significant time of transition when studies on other Hopewell sites were prepared that subsequently spawned an initiative to expand and transform Mound City Group. Fagergren aggressively pushed for change with a determination to reorient the park's interpretive focus upon its cultural resources. [15]

Upon Fagergren's transfer on March 7, 1981, Ken Apschnikat became Mound City Group's seventh superintendent on April 19, 1981. Apschnikat, historian at Appomattox Court House National Historical Park, naturalist at Shenandoah National Park, and chief of interpretation and visitor services at Richmond National Battlefield Park, all in Virginia, had eleven years of experience before assuming his first park management post. [16] Apschnikat's tenure arrived at the same time the administration of President Ronald W. Reagan began implementing its tight controls on land-managing federal agencies through Secretary of the Interior James G. Watt. Watt, a conservative Westerner who wanted to curb federal power over the private sector, instituted a moratorium on federal land acquisition until such policies could clearly be spelled out through Interior-approved land acquisition plans. In the meantime, as the nation slipped further into an economic recession, NPS adopted "basic operations" plans for each unit. Mound City Group's focused on resource preservation and protection. Apschnikat's basic operations objectives were as follows:

To identify, inventory, and evaluate the park's cultural resources; to monitor their condition; and to preserve, protect, and interpret them in a manner consistent with the requirements of the enabling legislation, historic preservation laws, and National Park Service policies.

To ensure, through authorized acquisition or other means, a land base that is adequate to protect and interpret the burial mounds and associated cultural resources.

To help ensure that land use and development in the park's vicinity are compatible with long-term preservation of park resources through cooperation with other agencies, organizations, and interests.

To protect the historic and prehistoric resources from erosion by the Scioto River.

To foster public understanding and appreciation of the Hopewell and other native American cultures and the relationship between these people and their environment, as well as the more general evolution of the relationship between man and his environment.

To re-establish to the degree possible, the historic scene to reflect the environment of the "Hopewell Culture." [17]

Watt came into office believing the national park system had grown too big, too fast, and contained units of less-than-national significance which should more properly be administered by state or local governments, non-profit organizations, or other qualified groups. Reminiscent of the 1950s, when Interior's inspector general began making plans to audit such small historical parks, Mound City Group National Monument once again found itself on a deaccession "hit list." The uproar from around the country, spearheaded by cultural and environmental interest groups, was angry and immediate. Stunned by the response, Secretary Watt publicly disavowed knowledge of the move, instructed that the audits be cancelled, and stated no part of the national park system would be dismantled while he held office. [18]

Superintendent Kenneth Apschnikat
Figure 40: Superintendent Kenneth Apschnikat. (NPS/November 1982)

The Reagan administration launched a number of federal spending programs in the early 1980s to ease the brunt of a deepening domestic economic recession. For NPS, still under tight land acquisition controls, Watt wished to improve existing parks, not add new ones, and launched the billion-dollar Park Rehabilitation and Improvement Program. In 1982 at Mound City Group, it meant road repairs, replacement of the visitor center viewing deck, addition of handicapped and bus/recreation vehicle parking, a ground water heat pump for the visitor center, and a solar-heated water system for the residence. Additional manpower came under the Emergency Jobs Appropriation Act of 1983. It provided $28,500 for Mound City Group to replace the river trail steps as well as painting and general repair work. [19]

The Reagan/Watt-imposed basic operations program also generated a new policy of "management efficiency," which in effect formalized the practice of "doing more with less." Managers were encouraged to identify a range of cost-saving measures. A part of this exercise involved the Office of Management and Budget's "Circular A-76," which entailed contracting various federal functions to the private sector. A primary target for A-76 was grounds maintenance and janitorial services (see Chapter Seven). A-76 symbolized the administration's anti-big government stance that many federally-performed activities could best be handled by private enterprise. At Mound City Group in 1983, as at most parks, A-76 was deferred pending further instructions, and eventually the bureau received an exemption from Congress. [20] To improve productivity, the park installed a radio system, a pay-telephone for visitors, converted the secretary from subject to furlough to full-time permanent, and purchased its first computer, a Xerox 820-II to streamline administrative functions. [21]

Seeking to improve efficiency further, the park purchased its own touch tone telephone system in 1984, which resulted in reduced service costs, increased staff efficiency, and shorter time periods in placing calls. Mound City Group had come a long way since its last upgrade in service. In 1962, it switched from an eight-party business line to two private lines, one each in the visitor center and residence. Unsatisfactory service from the Federal Telecommunications System (FTS) operator in Columbus, led to going through Cincinnati at a higher cost. Prohibitively high costs to install its own FTS line or accessing FTS through the Veterans Hospital continued to frustrate Mound City Group managers. [22] An evaluation of how electronic transmission of data between the park and Midwest Regional Office via computer and telephonic modem began in 1985, and succeeded in April 1987 when timecards, payroll data, and reports could easily be exchanged. [23]

William Penn Mott, Jr., only the second NPS director to visit Mound City Group National Monument, arrived on November 24, 1985, for a brief park tour and side trip to Hopeton Earthworks. [24] Superintendent Apschnikat, attempting to implement provisions of Mott's "Twelve-Point Plan," began working with a local American Indian citizen to form a park friends group. The effort did not bear fruit. [25]

Despite the perceived heavy-handedness at the top executive branch level, Superintendent Apschnikat continued to make positive changes. On August 25, 1986, Ken Apschnikat issued the first compendium of "Superintendent's Orders" for the monument. He set visiting hours to daylight periods only, except for special evening programs or by individual permits. To prevent erosion, mounds and earthwalls were closed to public foot and vehicular travel, although visitors could walk between these features. Recreational pursuits such as jogging, kite-flying, and games were confined to the mowed turf area between the highway and visitor center, principally to "reduce potential for accidents with other visitors, to avoid disturbing those visitors taking part in activities deemed appropriate to management objectives of the area, and to preserve the dignity of the prehistoric burial area." Gathering or collecting of fruits, nuts, berries, mussel shells, leaves, and other natural resources were also prohibited. To protect government property and for fire prevention, lighting or maintaining fires, and the use of stoves or any other cooking device, were banned as well. [26]

To offset flat budgets, a donation box first appeared in the museum area near the visitor register and free brochure rack in November 1985. The following calendar year donations nearly totalled $2,600. Donated funds were used to support ongoing park projects. In 1987, Congress first instituted park entrance fees at 135 areas, and $54 million was earmarked nationwide for research and visitor services with the remainder of NPS fees going back into the U.S. Treasury. Mound City Group used its portion of fee money to hire seasonal employees for curatorial work ranging from inventory to preparing exhibits to research, and seasonal rangers for walks and talks on summer weekends. On July 1, 1988, the monument began charging an entrance fee in the visitor center. Donation box contributions immediately declined. Remarkably, only a few visitor complaints were received, most of which came from locals who frequented the park. [27] The one-dollar per person fee or three dollars maximum per private vehicle charge netted the park fifty percent of the revenue, plus an additional percentage of total nationwide fees based on the monument's budget. [28]

Doubling of the single visit entrance fee in 1993 resulted in an eighteen percent drop in visitation from the previous year. Instead of the one-dollar charge, the fee went to two dollars, and the vehicle entrance fee went from three to four dollars. Total revenues from entrance fees surpassed $13,500 for 1993. [29]

Lack of sufficient administrative office space had been an issue since the visitor center's opening in 1961. Innovative ways were found to jam together a growing number of employees, office equipment, and files into a small space. A 1987 operations evaluation report, acknowledging the difficulty in securing funding for a visitor center expansion, recommended adapting the quarters for administrative offices and storage. Upon Ken Apschnikat's transfer on August 13, 1988, work began that fall and winter on the superintendent's residence to convert it to a new administrative headquarters. Offices were fabricated for the superintendent, administrative technician, secretary, chief of interpretation and resource management, and maintenance worker foreman. Space for a lunch/break room, copier/mailroom, conference and storage rooms were accommodated. Office space promised to become less problematic in the late 1990s when a new maintenance building allowed conversion of the previous structure into the "Resource Management Building." [30]

Administrative Technician Bonnie Murray served in an acting capacity from August 14 until Superintendent William Gibson arrived on December 4, 1988. Gibson, chief ranger from Saratoga National Historical Park, New York, was also in his first park management position. [31] Gibson and staff occupied the new headquarters building in the fall of 1989. In one of his first moves, Gibson ended the twenty-four-hour flag-flying policy at the visitor center, conforming flag protocol to reflect operating hours only. In 1989, computer automation extended to all park divisions as the technology became integral to budget formulation and preparation of reports and correspondence. Reflecting increased responsibilities and an expanding park, position upgrades were approved for the superintendent (GS-11 to GS-12) and park ranger (GS-05 to GS-07) in 1990. On October 6, 7, and 8, employees were furloughed and the park closed because of lack of congressional appropriations. [32]

The first facsimile machine came in October 1990, a gift from the Midwest Regional Office. While enhanced communication with Omaha had been a reality for a number of years, "fax" capacity meant almost instant contact with hard-copy documents. Automation also continued to advance as new equipment arrived and curatorial employees began tracking collection items in a database.

Superintendent William Gibson
Figure 41: Superintendent William Gibson. (NPS/February 1991)

On June 14, 1990, the third NPS director to visit Mound City Group, James Ridenour, toured the park on his way from Washington, D.C., to his Indiana home. [33]

Following up on the groundwork laid by his predecessors, Superintendent Gibson and his staff worked tirelessly to assist NPS efforts to transform the park and other nearby related sites into Hopewell Culture National Historical Park (see Chapter Ten). In spite of the roadblocks to land acquisition erected during the Reagan administration, success finally came when President George Bush signed the authorizing legislation on May 27, 1992.

Much had occurred in the course of Mound City Group National Monument's seven-decade history. The roadside municipal playground of Clyde King's era had steadily progressed under a succession of competent NPS managers to a point where its resources were fully appreciated, preserved, and interpreted in a broader cultural context. In 1992, more than just the "City of the Dead," Mound City Group became the administrative hub of a larger NPS unit including additional sites related to the Hopewell culture.

Lack of funding to implement provisions transforming the area into Hopewell Culture National Historical Park limited transitionary measures during that fiscal year to simplistic, cosmetic changes like new letterhead and signage. Mound City Group's visitor brochure received a wrap-around interpretive flyer explaining Public Law 102-294 to visitors during the interim period. [34]

Superintendent Bill Gibson transferred as the first superintendent of Dayton Aviation National Historical Park in Dayton, Ohio, in April 1993. Administrative Technician Bonnie Murray provided administrative support, earning herself a temporary promotion. Because permanent staff increases for Dayton Aviation Heritage were slow to materialize, Gibson's arrangement with Hopewell Culture continued, eventually leading to Murray's upgrade to administrative officer with plans to hire administrative assistants at both areas. Hopewell Culture received a new superintendent in July 1993 when John Neal, formerly park manager at Missouri's George Washington Carver National Monument, entered on duty. With the nationwide implementation of "Ranger Futures" at mid-decade, Hopewell Culture Chief of Interpretation and Resource Management Robert Burgoon and Park Ranger Robert Petersen both received grade increases, from GS-09 to GS-11, and GS-07 to GS-09 respectively. Audit of the superintendent position resulted in its upgrade from GS-12 to GS-13 in August 1995. [35]

John Neal not only faced the challenge of managing an expanded park, but effectively dealt with a shift of responsibility from the regional office to the parks. The October 1, 1995, National Park Service reorganization saw not only the states of South Dakota, North Dakota, and Arkansas placed into an expanded and redesignated Midwest Field Area, but the division of the former Midwest Region into two geographic clusters of parks, Great Plains and Great Lakes, with the professional staff in Omaha divided similarly into respective system support offices. Management and coordination of each geographic cluster group fell to a cluster management team. For the duration of the 1995-1997 Great Lakes Cluster Management Team (CMT), Hopewell Culture Superintendent John Neal served as chairman. The important position required devoting considerable attention away from daily park operations to matters covering the six-state Great Lakes cluster. As Great Lakes CMT chairman, Neal oversaw and directed project and budget priority-setting for his park cluster. New responsibilities, including delegation of cultural resources compliance from the regional director to park superintendents, further empowered Neal and his peers. These actions highlighted a new management philosophy to shift responsibility to local, front-line managers and enhance cooperation, not competition, among parks.

Upon the October 1, 1997, reorganization back to the former Midwest Region, the Omaha support staff collapsed into a consolidated Midwest Support Office and delineation among geographic clusters blurred but did not vanish. The two CMTs subsequently blended into the Midwest Leadership Council, and Neal's collateral-duty special assignment ended. [36]

The spirit of Park Service cooperation fluorished among the Ohio parks. In the north, Cuyahoga Valley assisted Perry's Victory in numerous administrative ways. In Southern Ohio, on October 23, 1996, superintendents, supervisory personnel, and professional discipline specialists of Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park, Hopewell Culture National Historical Park, and William Howard Taft National Historic Site convened at Caesar Creek State Park to discuss the feasibility of integrating park operations. Facilitated by a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers employee, the group discussed forming a potential "Southern Ohio Group," formally sanctioning the shared expertise between park areas that Mound City Group initiated years previously. One of the many offshoots of this cooperative spirit involved agreement on utilizing Archeologist Bret Ruby's expertise to oversee archeological compliance requirements at all three parks per section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act. The largest Ohio park unit, Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area, extended its fully operational human resources management office to handle Hopewell Culture's personnel recruitment for permanent jobs and classification of existing positions. The larger park also helped ease Hopewell Culture's conversion to a new payroll entry program. [37]

Fiscal year 1996 hosted numerous furloughs of federal employees as President Bill Clinton battled a Republican-dominated Congress over the federal budget. The longest furlough stretched over the course of several weeks, all the while America's federal government ceased to function except for critical positions and services. The National Park Service shutdown its operations. Hopewell Culture National Historical Park, still experiencing its growing pains, reluctantly closed to the public and went into a mothball status. Essential work remained undone, and the small staff, once back to work, struggled to regain the initiative on a growing backlog of projects. [38]


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