National Park Service

State of the Park Reports

State of the Park Report for Salem Maritime National Historic Site

Chapter 4 - Key Issues and Challenges for Consideration in Management Planning

West India Goods Store at Salem Maritime National Historic Site
West India Goods Store at Salem Maritime National Historic Site

Introduction

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

Salem Maritime National Historic Site has a long history of positive, productive partnerships that assisted with the original creation and development of the park over the last 75 years. Throughout the 97 years of the National Park Service's existence, Congress has emphasized that the agency adhere to our primary mission as defined in the Organic Act of 1916 through the Redwood Act of 1978 to "provide for the preservation of our natural and cultural resources for the benefit of future generations and the public enjoyment thereof". Additional federal directives encourage the park to explore mutually beneficial partnerships to further our agency's mission and the park programs, where and when appropriate.

The 2006 NPS Management Policies provide us with guidance for developing creative partnerships that ensure the public enjoyment of the park while simultaneously protecting our park's resources from commercialization, heavy-handed economic development that may not be compatible with our mission, or policies favoring a specific individual or group over the interests of the general public. While we recognize the beneficial contributions from our existing partnerships, we must also reassess the role, value and appropriateness of our partnerships within the context of our agency's primary mission and the enabling legislation of the park.

The federal government has recently been directed to be more business-minded in regard to our budgets, staffing and facility management costs, which include an examination of "life-cycle" costs for all park assets, including the Friendship of Salem and the Salem Visitor Center (both facilities are products of park partnerships). The funding, staffing and maintenance required to operate these facilities, combined with the primary waterfront facilities along Derby Street, must be carefully considered in planning for a sustainable operation of Salem Maritime NHS. Partnerships with local governments, civic institutions, non-profits and citizens may be a critical component of the long-term strategy to maintain the existing portfolio of park assets.

Wharves /Waterfront Rehabilitation and Protection

The 18th-century wharves are the heart of Salem Maritime NHS. As visitors stroll the wharves (Derby, Hatches, Central & Tuckers Wharf), they enjoy panoramic views of Salem Harbor with waves splashing on an adjacent beach and can explore our replica tall-ship Friendship of Salem. At the end of Derby wharf stands Derby Wharf Light Station, which was built in 1875 to help guide vessels into Salem Harbor. Looking back at the mainland, one can see a picturesque array of historic buildings, including the 1819 Custom House, 1780 Hawkes House, 1762 Derby House, 1672 Narbonne House, 1770 Pedrick Storehouse and 1800 West India Goods Store. This park is a beautiful site that gives the feel, smell, and sounds of our nation's maritime history.

Jutting one-half mile into Salem Harbor, the 1762 Derby Wharf is a wonderful example of a timber and earthen "cobb" wharf. Later 19th-century expansions and repairs done during the working life of the wharf have archaeologically preserved much of the 18th-century structure. However, Derby Wharf is being eroded away by rising sea levels, higher tides, and more frequent severe storms. We must consider the possibility that natural forces will ultimately submerge this historic wharf and thus require new ways of "protecting, preserving and allowing for the enjoyment thereof." This is one of our greatest challenges, to contemplate and explore all options for Derby Wharf, perhaps even experiment with some, to determine the best way to manage these significant park resources into the next century for the benefit of future generations.

Tall-ship Friendship of Salem

Created in 1997 as a tall-ship exhibit with the capability to sail, Friendship of Salem is a replica of a 1797 three-masted cargo ship from Salem that was lost to the British in the War of 1812. Visitors and local residents frequently cite Friendship as one of the most impressive and beautiful resources in the park. Her presence evokes what any visitor would expect to find at a maritime park—sails, masts, rigging and historic cargo. To see the look on a child's face when they board her, explore her cabins and holds, and take in the view from her decks is priceless; as is the force and beauty of Friendship under sail. Built of wood and sitting in the salt water year round, weathered by the New England winters and summer storms, she is continually subject to the elements.

The annual cost to maintain Friendship is very high. Her status as a modern replica competes for limited funding with the large number of original historic assets in the park. Management has continually evaluated the function of Friendship over her fifteen-year existence and has been forced to ask numerous questions about her role in the park due to the high cost of upkeep. Should we continue to try to keep her afloat and sail her when possible, or should she be used as a stationary exhibit? How can we best care for her and address her many needs with limited federal funding? How should the National Park Service utilize this replica and how should she be integrated into the operation of the park? Most importantly, how should she be viewed, valued, and managed as a non-historic replica in the context of all of the park's other original historic buildings, grounds, and artifacts?

National Park Service Regional Visitor Center

Most park visitor centers are located within the designated federal boundary of the park. They assist us in welcoming our visitors to the site, allowing us to orient them as to what there is to see and do at the park. From these visitor centers, park rangers can easily point to the park's historical resources and provide detailed information to address visitor interests. The visitor can also get their bearings as to where they are in relation to their surroundings and the park resources they wish to visit.

Salem Maritime has a large National Park Service Regional Visitor Center in downtown Salem that is approximately a half-mile from the official park boundary, including the waterfront, wharves and Friendship. Surrounded by privately-owned buildings and a municipal parking garage, this facility is physically removed from the park and creates a disconnected feeling for both our visitors and employees. Neither visitors nor employees can see or relate to literal park resources as park staff describes the park's significance and history. Moreover, visitors are often confused as to the role of the Visitor Center in relation to the park and report that travel between the two locations is difficult to navigate. An existing historic building, located within the park boundary and directly opposite the park's historic wharves and buildings, also serves as a traditional visitor center. In the current fiscal climate it will be difficult to sustain staff and maintain two visitor centers.

Park Planning

Salem Maritime NHS is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, but has never completed a comprehensive park plan to define its mission, roles, and priorities. In addition, the park is part of a complex urban environment within the greater Boston metropolitan area that creates significant demands on our available resources and calls for a comprehensive plan to provide guidance. A comprehensive park plan, referred to as a Foundation Document and its associated Resource Stewardship Strategy are crucial to filling this planning deficiency. These plans will define and update our mission, roles, and priorities to serve the visitors and protect the park in the 21st century.

The park has many significant resources to manage, protect, preserve and interpret. Our historic resources and facilities include the Custom House, Narbonne House, Hawkes House, Derby House, West India Goods Store, Pedricks Storehouse, Derby Wharf, Central Wharf and Derby Lighthouse, as well as museum collections, archives, libraries, and cultural landscapes. Our proximity to the ocean and the historic significant of our waterfront resources require that we devote attention to monitoring and protecting the natural resources of the park; including the land, water, and air resources surrounding us. In order to assess all these resources and their competing needs, we must develop these comprehensive management plans to manage, monitor, mitigate, protect, preserve and interpret these resources.

Conclusion

The Centennial celebration in 2016 is a time for us to reassess how well we have met the mandates of our mission to protect, preserve and provide for the enjoyment of these nationally significant resources along the North Shore. In the past, management did not have a fully objective set of metrics that could be applied consistently to all of the National Parks across the country to evaluate their conditions. The State of the Park process provides us with clear, convenient and measureable metrics for the first time. This report will allow us to inventory and assess all our previous efforts and then evaluate how effective these efforts have been in accomplishing our mission. In areas where we are doing well, we can maintain our course; but, in realms where we have not met our mandate, we can identify where we have additional work to do and then plan accordingly to use our available resources to address the greatest needs.

By establishing a standardized process that we can return to after one, three, five, ten or twenty years afterwards to re-evaluate where we stand, we can begin to manage our parks in a new way for the 21st century. Our challenging times require us to be creative in developing new strategies, partnerships, and ways of doing park business to ensure the well-being of these significant resources for future generations to come. This State of the Park Report will help us to achieve these goals as we approach our 2016 Centennial.

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Last Updated: September 19, 2014 Contact Webmaster