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Contact: Bill Burke, Park Historian, 508-255-3421 ext.14
Cape Cod National Seashore Superintendent George Price has announced that the National Park Service (NPS) will present an illustrated program highlighting recent woodland clearing at the Skiff Hill and Penniman House areas within the Fort Hill Rural Historic District. The program will be presented on Wednesday, May 2, 2012, at 6 PM at the Salt Pond Visitor Center in Eastham. Seashore staff and the co-author of the 2007 Fort Hill Condition Report, Margie Brown of the Olmsted Center for Landscape Preservation, will provide an overview of the recent clearing and the goals of the mowing and fire regime at this spectacular Eastham landmark. Seashore staff from a variety of disciplines will be on hand to answer questions regarding the resources that coexist at Fort Hill: archeological resources, wildlife, vegetation, and historic homes, stone walls and farm fields.
The open fields are the centerpiece of the 100-acre Fort Hill Rural Historic District. The NPS has carefully documented the history of the district, a history that spans from native settlements dating back several thousand years, to Samuel de Champlain's mapping of native villages in 1605, to the Knowles family's farming of the site for two centuries until the 1940s. Following an intensive public planning process for Fort Hill associated with the development of the Seashore's General Management Plan in the 1990s, the NPS continued keeping the 50- acre field area open through mowing and prescribed fire. In the past several months, seashore staff and volunteers have cleared an additional five acres that were identified during the public planning process as areas essential for understanding the history of the district.
Superintendent Price remarked that, "Viewing the open fields at Fort Hill is a timeless experience - rolling fields flanked by forest, marsh, and sea that have such a rich human story to tell. The clearing has opened up a portion of vistas lost since the establishment of the seashore in 1961".
The Fort Hill area contains three National Register of Historic Places listings and one National Landmark designation. A portion of the Fort Hill area was included in the Nauset Archeological District in 1991 and designated as part of a National Landmark in 1992. A 100-acre area was listed as the Fort Hill Rural Historic District in 2001. One of the most prominent historical homes in the district is the Captain Edward Penniman House and Barn, which were listed in the National Register in 1976. The recent woodland clearing has begun to re-establish a historic vista that the Penniman family once enjoyed from their house overlooking Nauset Marsh. In addition, the seashore recently cleared a woodland area adjacent to Skiff Hill on the north end of the district to restore marsh and field views, remove non-native vegetation, and re-open historic grassland habitat.
If You Go: Salt Pond Visitor Center is located at the intersection of Route 6 and Nauset Road in Eastham and is open daily from 9:00 AM to 4:30 PM. The center includes a lobby with expansive views of Salt Pond, Nauset Marsh, and the Atlantic; a museum featuring the park's natural and cultural stories; staff to assist with trip planning; and a store with books, maps, puzzles, games, and t-shirts. There are short films shown throughout the day. The Buttonbush and Nauset Marsh Trails, and the Nauset Bike Trail are located nearby. For more information on Cape Cod National Seashore programs call 508-255-3421, or check the park's website, www.nps.gov/caco.