State Parks director praises Fort Miles volunteers

 

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Fort Miles Historical Association President Dr. Gary Wray, left, presents the second annual Lee Jennings Memorial Award to John V.H. Roberts, FMHA board member and leader of the Bunker Busters, the volunteer group that performs carpentry, electrical work, engineering, plumbing, painting, repairs and other jobs at Fort Miles.

Editor’s Note: Information for this article was provided by Ann Sagi Ward.

LEWES – The director of Delaware State Parks thanked members of Fort Miles Historical Association on Friday, Dec. 4, calling volunteers “critically important” to all state parks.

Ray Bivens, speaking at the second annual Bunker Busters Awards Dinner, said contributions of time and effort by FMHA members are moving the fort in Cape Henlopen State Park toward the goal of making it the best World War II museum in a WWII facility.

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Ray Bivens, Delaware State Parks Director, addresses the audience at the Dec. 4 Bunker Busters Awards Dinner.

DSP is completing work in parks statewide “that’s been needed for years. This is where volunteers make a big difference,” Mr. Bivens said, adding that volunteers’ hours equal the work of 60 full-time staff statewide.

“Volunteer isn’t a title. It’s a pay grade,” he said. “Volunteers are critically important to us.”

Mr. Bivens told banquet attendees that DSP won the 2016 National Gold Medal Award for Excellence in Park and Recreation Management in the state parks category in September in Las Vegas, competing against larger states such as Wyoming and Georgia, a seven-time finalist.

Mr. Bivens said he was proud that small, three-county Delaware was competing against larger states as a finalist, much less that it won.

“When I collected the medal I was in shock. Delaware was voted America’s best state park system,” he said. “That never would have happened without our volunteers.”

Dr. Gary D. Wray, FMHA president, presented a service award to Horace Knowles, an association member who served with the 261st artillery group stationed at Fort Miles during World War II.

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At right, Mike Dunkes, FMHA secretary, recognizes Ann and George Ward for publicizing Fort Miles, and for their work at the FMHA gift shop.

Mike Dunkes, FMHA secretary, announced service awards to Ann and George Ward for publicizing Fort Miles, and for their work at the FMHA gift shop; Kae Johnson for her work at the gift shop; and Dotti and George Wiker for their stewardship of the fort’s Wall of Honor, which displays engraved tribute pavers.

FMHA board member Joseph Kosaveach thanked association member Frank Ali and gave him a plaque for his work on the board of directors and at FMHA events.

Dr. Wray gave a recognition award to Lockwood Brothers Inc. of Hampton, Va., the company that transported a 16-inch gun barrel formerly on the USS Missouri from a Navy storage yard in Virginia across the Chesapeake Bay by barge, then by rail to Fort Miles in 2011.

Dan Clark, intermodal transportation project manager for Lockwood Brothers, accepted the award for the company. Mr. Clark said he bought an engraved paver for his father, a 93-year-old World War II Navy veteran. He took his father on a tour of Battery 519, the fort’s underground bunker, and to see the paver in the Wall of Honor.

“He was tickled to death,” Mr. Clark said. “He told me, ‘These people are absolutely incredible’” for restoring the fort.

The FMHA award “is very special. I’ll share this with my father,” Mr. Clark said.

Dr. Wray presented the second annual Lee Jennings Memorial Award to John V.H. Roberts, FMHA board member and leader of the Bunker Busters, the group of volunteers that performs carpentry, electrical work, engineering, plumbing, painting, repairs and other jobs at Fort Miles.

Mr. Jennings was state parks historian and a founding member of FMHA in 2003. He died in March 2010 after working on the restoration of Battery 519.

Mr. Roberts called the Bunker Busters “amazing,” saying “every guy brings special skills to the party.”

He said no Bunker Busters have suffered a recordable injury since he began his volunteer service in 2008 while they work with “things that are heavy, tall, rusty and have sharp edges. The guys are doing what they do and doing it safely.”

Dr. Wray wrapped up the dinner at Irish Eyes restaurant in Lewes by saying that FMHA will receive Howard Schroeder paintings, including one of soldiers in a fire control tower that now hangs in the Lewes public library, for display in the Fort Miles museum.

The Sussex County Post delivers news from Georgetown and southern Delaware. Follow @SussexPost on Twitter.

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