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Park manager builds interest in Fort Frederick

April 10, 2007|by MARLO BARNHART

BIG POOL, Md. - As she heads into her second summer as park manager at Fort Frederick State Park, Angela Hummer said she is hoping that efforts to make the site more attractive to tourists will continue to produce phenomenal results.

The annual attendance for Fort Frederick in 2006 was nearly double than that of previous years. The staff knew the visitation numbers were up over the previous year but were surprised to find out that there were almost twice as many visitors.

"This has been the busiest year at Fort Frederick that anyone can remember," Hummer said in a prepared release. "We rechecked our car counter about four times during the year to be sure it was working properly. We could not believe the figures ... we triple-checked the math."

More than 82,000 people visited the park in 2006, according to Hummer. This increased number of visitors includes people who stopped into the park's visitors center.

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More people also traveled on the C&O Canal Towpath and made a point of visiting the fort, and a lot of people heard about the park and came for camping or deer-watching, she said in the release.

"We allow pets in the park now, too," Hummer said.

A year-round attraction, Fort Frederick is often a destination for visitors who want to come in and walk around the grounds. Bathrooms are available 365 days a year at the visitors center and at the Civilian Conservation Corps museum.

Word of mouth is still very powerful, said Hummer, who noted that the park charges only for special events and at the entrance of the fort itself.

The park has a picnic shelter with tables that can be rented for $45 a day.

The Fort Frederick complex also includes 23 miles of Rail Trails and the Woodmont Wildlife Management area and lodge, Hummer said.

After Ralph Young retired as park manager, Hummer, now 40, came in as acting manager in June 2005 and the job became permanent in January 2006.

"I started full time with the Maryland Park Service in 1990 after working as a seasonal employee three years before that in Cecil and Anne Arundel counties and then at Greenbrier in Washington County," Hummer said.

She and her husband still reside on the grounds of Greenbrier State Park and have no plans to relocate.

She completed studies at Cecil County Community College and then earned her bachelor's degree in leisure studies at Salisbury State University.

Fort Frederick State Park celebrated its 250th anniversary last May. According to Hummer, the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) was instrumental in promoting the event, and bringing the park publicity.

"I give them credit for helping to promote the park, little weekends and big events too," Hummer said.

Fort Frederick was built in 1756 by Maryland soldiers and named in honor of Maryland's Lord Proprietor Frederick Calvert, Sixth Lord Baltimore. The fort was used in various capacities throughout its history and is said to be the largest British colonial stone fortification built during the French and Indian War.

The fort was reacquired by the state in 1922, and according to the Department of Natural Resources, became one of Maryland's first state parks. It was owned for a number of years by a freed African-American family (the Nathan Williams family).

Williams was known for helping escaped slaves travel north to freedom.

The walls were restored by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s, and two enlisted men's barracks were reconstructed in the 1970s.

The fort now operates as a living history museum.

A groundbreaking ceremony took place during the May 2006 anniversary events for the reconstruction of the Governor's House - the officers' quarters at the fort.

Fort Frederick is west of Hagerstown at Big Pool near Exit 12 off Interstate 70.

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