A Wilderness Playground

by aunver

After visiting the three fort sites, Fort Mahan, Fort Chaplin, and Fort Buker Hill this past Friday, I was struck by how wild they all were. All three had large areas of the site that there were completely overgrown and were quite difficult to traverse. Scrambling was required. Scratches were endured. It was obvious that people had started to forge their own trails through some of these densely wooded areas, and were using the visual privacy that the dense woods provided to drink and dump trash, among other things.

When treating these sites, one of the first things we will have to consider is visibility and safety. In order to increase the number of users of these sites, they should be cleared not only of trash, but also of some trees so that users feel safer when using the site, and also to potentially restore some notable views that these forts would have previously enjoyed. Fort Chaplin had no direct or “official” trail access to its earthworks, and the one trail leading to the summit of Fort Mahan was imposing and unwelcoming. This should be improved, as well.

Despite the trash and the difficulty getting to the former site of Fort Chaplin, it was exciting to see that the earthworks were almost intact. There was the dry trench and a steep slope getting to the former ramparts. I started to imagine what this site might be like as a kind of ‘experience history and an adventure’ sort of playground. Let’s put the obvious safety and preservation issues aside and think what this site might look like if it was turned into a forested playground.

Although this is a completely whimsical view of what Fort Chaplin could be, to put a serious spin on it, I think that some of the fort sites, depending on the level of fort remains, might be excellent for programmed and unprogrammed recreation and play space. Fort Mahan’s earthworks have already been cleared and seem to have been used as a soccer or football field at some point, so perhaps these uses should be (re)introduced to some of these sites.