National Park Service

State of the Park Reports

State of the Park Report for Saugus Iron Works National Historic Site

Executive Summary

View of Iron Works landscape from East Bank
View of Iron Works landscape from East Bank

The mission of the National Park Service is to preserve unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of national parks for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations. NPS Management Policies (2006) state that "The Service will also strive to ensure that park resources and values are passed on to future generations in a condition that is as good as, or better than, the conditions that exist today."

As part of the stewardship of national parks for the American people, the NPS has begun to develop State of the Park reports to assess the overall status and trends of each park's resources. The NPS will use this information to improve park priority setting and to synthesize and communicate complex park condition information to the public in a clear and simple way.

The purpose of this State of the Park report for Saugus Iron Works National Historic Site is to:

  1. Provide to visitors and the American public a snapshot of the status and trend in the condition of a park's priority resources and values;
  2. Summarize and communicate complex scientific, scholarly, and park operations factual information and expert opinion using non-technical language and a visual format;
  3. Highlight park stewardship activities and accomplishments to maintain or improve the State of the Park;
  4. Identify key issues and challenges facing the park to help inform park management planning.

Click on the links below to see more information.

The purpose of Saugus Iron Works National Historic Site is to preserve and interpret the first sustained, integrated ironworks in British Colonial America, which operated on the Saugus River from 1646 to 1670.

Saugus Iron Works National Historic Site is significant because:

  1. Saugus Iron Works is the best evidence and demonstration of the earliest development of iron manufacturing in colonial America.
  2. Established by John Winthrop, Jr. (son of Massachusetts Bay Colony's first governor), the iron works was part of the Puritan vision for a self-reliant and self-determined colony—for what Governor Winthrop called "a city upon a hill."
  3. The 1646 plant provided crucial iron commodities to the young colony and served as a training ground for skilled iron workers. Workers took the technology they learned here and established new iron works ventures throughout the northeast, thereby laying the foundation of America's Iron and Steel Industry
  4. The park is also an important Native American estuary site as well as a prominent example of the colonial revival and historic preservation movement in the first half of the twentieth century.
  5. The cultural resources at Saugus Iron Works NHS provide opportunities for researchers from around the world to explore 17th-century iron-making technology and waterpower design.

The list below provides examples of stewardship activities and accomplishments by park staff and partners to maintain or improve the condition of priority park resources and values for this and future generations:

Cultural Resources

  • Collection storage area
  • Installed fire suppression system for museum collections
  • Facilitation of use of scholarly collection by more than 200 researchers
  • Cataloging the timbers
  • Scanning and digitizing documents for the park archives
  • Publication of Roland Robbins book
  • Discovery and documentation of pre-contact (archeological) period site
  • Purchased one of the seven known firebacks for use in park displays

Natural Resources

  • Monitoring of multiple physical and biological natural resources in association with restoration of the tidal marsh and wetlands from the turning basin project is ongoing from 2008–2018.
  • Control of invasive plants from the restored turning basin wetlands and riparian forest.
  • Removal of more than 100 non-native Norway maple trees through an innovative partnership with the Olmsted Center for Landscape Preservation.
  • Intensive study of coliform bacteria in the Saugus River completed in 2012.
  • American eel and Rainbow Smelt are monitored in partnership with Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries and the Saugus River Watershed Council.
  • Long-term monitoring of river water quality, forest breeding birds, and marsh vegetation by the Northeast Temperate Inventory & Monitoring Network.

Visitor Experience

  • Enhanced junior ranger hands-on activities
  • Iron pours
  • Increased accessibility in museum and Iron Works House and throughout site, including paving of waterfront trail
  • Education programs have been improved

Park Infrastructure

  • Replaced Slitting Mill & Blast Furnace Sluiceways
  • Replace Iron Works House roof
  • Rehabilitate Parking area
  • Modified Pathways to meet ADA requirements
  • 230/232 Central Street rehabilitation (added climate controlled museum collections storage, added ADA accessibility to library for researches, and fire suppression)
  • Museum/Theater rehabilitation (added climate controlled museum collections storage, added ADA accessibility, and fire suppression)
  • Improved visitor Center (Moved from small contact station to Iron Works House Annex. Now meets ADA compliance.)
  • Future Leaders Program (40 youth positions)
  • Greening of site: Use reel mowers and battery powered weed-trimmers to maintain building area grounds
  • Repaired forge hammer
  • Operated waterwheels for interpretive programs

In preparation for the 100th anniversary celebration of the National Park Service in 2016, it is a great honor for Salem Maritime National Historic Site and Saugus Iron Works National Historic Site to have been selected as the nation's first historic sites to complete a State of the Park Report. To date, only a select collection of natural resource-based national parks have completed this exercise. In contrast, Salem Maritime and Saugus Iron Works National Historic Sites are small, urban national parks with predominately cultural and historical significance. The parks recently worked with a variety of experts in the fields of natural and cultural resources, interpretation, law enforcement, and facility management to develop a set of baseline assessments that can now serve as a model for other historical and cultural-oriented national parks across the country.

In this time of accelerated change and increasing fiscal challenges, our ability to plan ahead necessitates that we have objective baseline data to assess our park operations and to develop articulated plans to address the multifaceted needs of the parks. Global climate change, rising sea levels, and an increase in the frequency and severity of storms are forcing us to envision new ways of managing and protecting our park resources. Innovations in information technology and a streamlining of government procedures are bringing broad changes to our administrative and management systems. Fiscal constraints, changing visitor demographics, and a need to diversify our workforce are all ushering in complex challenges for our parks as we enter our second century. The State of the Park Report will help us strategically assess our operations, plan for the future, and clearly communicate current park conditions to the public.

Partnerships

Saugus Iron Works National Historic Site was created by a grassroots organization called the First Iron Works Association over 70 years ago. Since its administration by the NPS in 1968, the park has continued its history of positive, productive partnerships. Additional federal directives encourage the park to explore mutually beneficial partnerships to further our agency's mission and the park's enabling legislation, where and when appropriate.

Waterwheels

Saugus Iron Works National Historic Site is a reconstructed 17th-century industrial site that evokes the character of a working, water-powered, iron-making plant from the early Massachusetts Bay Colony. The working waterwheels and the equipment that they power bring the site to life for our visitors. Without the waterwheels, sluiceways and water pumps to engage machinery, the visitor experience is severely compromised. The trees that were originally used to make these wheels and shafts were "old growth" timber that was strong and resilient to the water and weather, but is not found in abundance anymore. The craftsmanship and knowledge of how to build the wheels and shafts, how to put them in place and turn them to perfection is scarce, but not yet lost. We must find new ways to recreate these wheels in a sustainable manner.

Parking Lot Rehabilitation

The current parking lot and maintenance facility buildings are failing and in need of major repairs. The existing parking lot's stormwater drain empties untreated, unfiltered runoff from the parking area directly into the Saugus River. A plan was developed in 2012 to rehabilitate the site by shrinking the footprint of the parking lot and creating a swale that can serve as both a groundwater recharging area and filter for the storm drainage before it flows down to the river.

Visitation and Visibility

Historically, Saugus Iron Works NHS was open year-round and welcomed an average of 40,000 visitors per year. In 1998, the park was administratively combined with Salem Maritime NHS and in 2006 it was closed to complete a major rehab of the river basin and to improve accessibility throughout the site. We need to reassess the value of the partial year closing from various perspectives: tourism and economic benefit, community impacts, educational opportunities for the schools, and the feasibility of management of both Salem Maritime NHS and Saugus Iron Works NHS within existing budget and staffing levels. Through creative dialogue with the community and our partners, we may be able to find a way to lengthen the visitor season, increase visitation, and make it easier for visitors to discover.

Park Planning

Although the site has a General Management Plan from 2002, it will be beneficial for us to now develop a modern Foundation Document and associated Resource Stewardship Strategy. The creation of both the Foundation Document and Resource Stewardship Strategy will guide the protection, preservation and public enjoyment of the site into the next century.

Summary Table

The Status and Trend symbols used in the summary table below and throughout this report are summarized in the following key. The background color represents the current condition status, the direction of the arrow summarizes the trend in condition, and the thickness of the outside line represents the degree of confidence in the assessment. In some cases, the arrow is omitted because data are not sufficient for calculating a trend (e.g., data from a one-time inventory or insufficient sample size).

Condition Status Trend in Condition Confidence in
Assessment
Condition of resource warrants significant concern Warrants Significant Concern Condition is improving Condition is Improving High confidence in the assessment High
Condition of resource warrants moderate concern Warrants Moderate Concern Condition is unchanging Condition is Unchanging Medium confidence in the assessment Medium
Resource is in good condition Resource is in Good Condition Condition is deteriorating Condition is Deteriorating Low confidence in the assessment Low

Examples of how the symbols should be interpreted:

Resource is in good condition; condition is improving; high confidence in the assessment. Resource is in good condition; condition is improving; high confidence in the assessment.
Condition of resource warrants moderate concern; condition is unchanging; medium confidence in the assessment. Condition of resource warrants moderate concern; condition is unchanging; medium confidence in the assessment.
Condition of resource warrants significant concern; trend in condition is unknown or not applicable; low confidence in the assessment. Condition of resource warrants significant concern; trend in condition is unknown or not applicable; low confidence in the assessment.
Priority Resource or Value Condition Status/Trend Rationale
Natural Resources
Air Quality Condition of resource warrants significant concern; condition is unchanging; medium confidence in the assessment. For 2005–2009, estimated values for ozone and nitrogen and sulfur wet deposition in the historic site warrant significant concern based on NPS Air Resource Division benchmarks. Estimated average visibility warrants moderate concern for 2005–2009. Learn more »
Water Quality Condition of resource warrants moderate concern; condition is unchanging; medium confidence in the assessment. Organic enrichment and low Dissolved Oxygen levels were listed as impairments for the river segment upstream of the park from 1998 to 2006, but more recent observations indicate moderately good DO levels in the Saugus River at SAIR. Concentrations of heavy metals have been very low following the 2008 turning basin restoration. The EPA has continued to classify the Saugus River as impaired because of fecal coliform/Escherichia coli pathogens. Learn more »
Riverbed and Marsh Sediments Resource is in good condition; condition is improving; medium confidence in the assessment. The concentration of numerous pollutant metals in riverbed sediments decreased following the 2007–2008 Turning Basin restoration project, and all metals were below probable effect concentrations in 2008 and 2010 sampling. The project removed 1–3.5 feet of marsh sediments that contained pollutant metals and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, although sampling is needed to quantify current pollutant levels. Learn more »
Wetland Vegetation Condition of resource warrants moderate concern; condition is improving; high confidence in the assessment. Vegetated wetlands in the park include tidal fresh/brackish marsh, and freshwater seeps that occur above the Saugus River floodplain. Total vegetation cover in the restored marsh area has remained low, and the area has functioned more as a tidal mudflat than a vegetated marsh. The percent cover of non-native species in the tidal marshes was greater than 50% prior to the restoration of the turning basin, but since 2009 following the restoration, the percent cover of non-natives has fallen to <2%. Learn more »
Aquatic Vegetation Condition of resource warrants moderate concern; condition is improving; high confidence in the assessment. Submerged aquatic vegetation represents critical habitat to support fish and other nekton communities, providing forage, refuge from predation, and other functions. Prior to the turning basin restoration project in 2004, horned pondweed occupied just 1–5% of the tidal river bottom; in 2011 the cover had increased to 25%. Learn more »
Upland Vegetation Condition of resource warrants significant concern; condition is improving; high confidence in the assessment. More than 100 invasive Norway maple trees and numerous invasive shrubs have been removed from riparian forests of the park during the past decade. However, the West side forest remains dominated by Norway maple and the shrub and herb layers in all forested areas remain co-dominated by invasive non-native plants. Learn more »
Aquatic Benthic Macroinvertebrate Community Condition of resource warrants significant concern; trend in condition is unknown or not applicable; low confidence in the assessment. Sampling of the benthic macroinvertebrate community has shown high variability, and thus no trend can be reported. It is uncertain if and when the community will stabilize following the 2007–08 restoration project. The preponderance of taxa has been pollution-tolerant, which indicates poor quality habitat. Learn more »
Fish Community Condition of resource warrants moderate concern; condition is unchanging; medium confidence in the assessment. The fish community at SAIR has been dominated by either pollution-tolerant or moderately pollution-tolerant species, although a consistent trend of increasing abundance of estuarine species since the removal of a downstream weir in 2009 indicates recovery of the fish community in the Saugus River at the Iron Works. Learn more »
Avian Community Resource is in good condition; condition is improving; high confidence in the assessment. 15 species of shorebirds, waders, and waterfowl have been observed using the newly restored wetland, open water, and tidal flats within the park. Learn more »
Cultural Resources
Archeological Resources Resource is in good condition; condition is unchanging; high confidence in the assessment. Approximately 60% of the park has been intensively surveyed for archeological resources, and 99.9% of recovered archeological materials have been cleaned, conserved, studied, cataloged, and properly stored. 90% of the sites that are documented in the NPS ASMIS archeological sites database are in good condition. Learn more »
Cultural Anthropology Condition of resource warrants moderate concern; condition is unchanging; high confidence in the assessment. The park lacks an understanding of Native American use of the site, the families who trace their lineage back to the iron works at Saugus, or groups associated with the First Iron Works Association or Roland Robbins' excavations. Gaps in knowledge have been identified, but the park is unable to conduct the studies needed to fill them. Learn more »
Cultural Landscapes Condition of resource warrants moderate concern; condition is improving; high confidence in the assessment. The historic context for the park landscape is based on the archeological efforts associated with the reconstruction and historic preservation during the early twentieth century. Existing documentation (1963 National Historic Landmark nomination) is focused on the historic structures and archeology and does not adequately address the landscape. A cultural landscape inventory study is planned for FY 2016. Learn more »
Historic Structures Condition of resource warrants moderate concern; condition is unchanging; high confidence in the assessment. Many structures are insufficiently recorded in the National Register/National Historic Landmark documentation. 78% of the site's historic structures have been officially identified and evaluated. Learn more »
History Condition of resource warrants moderate concern; condition is improving; high confidence in the assessment. 78% of the cultural resources at SAIR (18 of 23 total resources) have been listed in the appropriate Service-wide inventories, including the National Register. No administrative history has been completed, but the park plans to do one in the future. Learn more »
Museum Collections Resource is in good condition; condition is unchanging; high confidence in the assessment. The collections are accessioned and 99.9% cataloged, which represents a significant accomplishment for the park. The 1982 Historic Furnishings Report is out of date, and an update is needed to the 1995 Collections Management Plan. The overall condition of the museum collection is fair and improving steadily due to a condition survey and improvements to collections storage. Learn more »
Visitor Experience
Visitor Numbers Resource is in good condition; condition is unchanging; medium confidence in the assessment. 11,611 visitors in 2012 is consistent with the 5-year average of 11,294 visitors/year for 2008–2012. In 2007 the park changed its open season from 12 months to 7 months, resulting in a relative drop in visitation compared to the previous 5-years. Learn more »
Visitor Satisfaction Resource is in good condition; condition is improving; high confidence in the assessment. The percent of visitors satisfied in FY12 was 99.0%, up from 97% and 98% for the two previous years. Learn more »
Interpretive and Education Programs - Talks, Tours, and Special Events Resource is in good condition; condition is improving; high confidence in the assessment. The park offers regular interpretive tours, two types of curriculum-based education programs, conducted demonstrations and eighteen special events (2012). Programs and special events have been revised and expanded in past three years. This upward trend in public programming is dependent on sustained or increased funding levels to be maintained. Learn more »
Interpretive Media - Brochures, Exhibits, Signs, and Website Condition of resource warrants moderate concern; condition is unchanging; high confidence in the assessment. An interim renovation in 2007 reconfigured a portion of the park's exhibits. Nonetheless, museum exhibits are in need of a complete redesign due to their 30+ year age. Waysides are in good condition, with an additional 3–4 new waysides needed. Unigrid is outdated and needs moderate revision. Website is well-designed, but needs additional resource content. Internal park signage is good, way-finding signage on roads leading to park needs upgrading and/or replacement. Learn more »
Accessibility Condition of resource warrants moderate concern; condition is unchanging; medium confidence in the assessment. Physical accessibility on-site has improved significantly since 2007 and the site is now largely accessible. Only a small portion of existing interpretive products (films, unigrid, etc.) are accessible for individuals with visual/auditory/language limitations. Learn more »
Safety Resource is in good condition; condition is unchanging; high confidence in the assessment. The recordable incident rate is consistently low or non-existent. Operational Leadership training has been conducted for all employees. Site contains some safety hazards associated with fire, open water, and moving machinery. Learn more »
Park Community: Volunteers and Partnerships Resource is in good condition; condition is unchanging; high confidence in the assessment. A small contingent of regular volunteers assists with park operations in Interpretation and Resource Management, with a current focus on Museum Collections management projects. New volunteers have joined the park to assist Natural Resources with habitat restoration. The park maintains partnerships with the Essex National Heritage Area, Saugus River Watershed Council, and Saugus Chamber of Commerce. Learn more »
Park Infrastructure
Overall Facility Condition Index Resource is in good condition; condition is improving; high confidence in the assessment. The overall Facility Condition Index for 35 assets at Saugus Iron Works NHS in FY 2012 is 0.075, which is Good based on industry and NPS standards. Learn more »
Energy Consumption Resource is in good condition; condition is improving; high confidence in the assessment. Energy consumption (BTUs per gross square footage of buildings) in 2012 was 9.5% lower than the average for the previous 4 years (Source: NPS Annual Energy Report). Learn more »
Water Consumption Resource is in good condition; condition is improving; high confidence in the assessment. Water consumption at SAIR in 2012 was 0.06 Million gallons, which represented a 57% reduction from the 4-year average for 2008–2011 (Source: NPS Annual Energy Report). Learn more »
Park Carbon Footprint Resource is in good condition; condition is unchanging; high confidence in the assessment. Saugus Iron Works belongs to a network of parks nationwide that are putting climate friendly behavior at the forefront of sustainability planning. The Park is currently drafting a climate action plan to formalize its commitment to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases at the park by 2016. Emissions from park operations and visitor activities within the Park during 2012 are roughly equivalent to the emissions from the energy use of 6 households each year. Learn more »

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Last Updated: October 31, 2013 Contact Webmaster