DayeTime: History, pecans and red tape in Marksville

There was a “silent protest” on Fort DeRussy Road outside of Marksville this past summer with someone -- probably a neighbor or frequent traveler of that road -- erecting a sign at a state-owned house near the Fort DeRussy State Historical Site. The sign read “Your state tax dollars at work.”

The state purchased the property some years ago with the hopes that it would one day be used in conjunction with the development of a state park and museum at the nearby historic Civil War site. The building has since deteriorated and the property was in need of attention.

The property was mowed by a crew from the Fort Randolph site in Pineville and the sign was removed.

The Friends of Fort DeRussy organization has offered to maintain the state’s property with periodic mowing, clean up, etc., in exchange for the right to harvest and sell pecans from trees on the state property.

FFD President Steve Mayeux said the historic preservation group would sell the pecans to “pay for the gas and the cost of sharpening blades incurred in maintaining the property.”

Perhaps at some time in the future there might accrue enough in the fund to move a used portable building onto the site that could house a volunteer part-time curator to sell souvenirs, provide tours and give visitors information about the Battle of Fort DeRussy, the Red River Campaign of 1864 and other historical facts and current tourist attractions in Avoyelles Parish.

The Office of Parks rejected the Friends’ proposal.

If the grass is not mowed around those pecan trees, even the squirrels will have trouble finding enough to carry them through the winter.

While we’re on the topic of the state playing “dog in the manger” with its local historic sites, I have to point out the Marksville Mounds park.

I know. I’ve been beating that drum for so long I probably owe dues to the Musicians Guild, but it is one of those issues that truly aggravates me.

Two organizations claiming to be descendants of the Avoyel tribe -- who greeted Europeans when they “discovered” this area and named it after the tribe -- have asked for permission to maintain and operate the park and museum. To date, their request has been refused.

If the state doesn’t want to choose one group over the other, perhaps a joint operating agreement with both organizations could be arranged.

The Tunica-Biloxi Tribe, who claims to have absorbed the last of the Avoyels generations ago, has also expressed a desire to take over the park/museum, but no agreement has been reached. This federally recognized tribe would have funding and other resources available to it that the unrecognized Avoyel/ Avogel groups do not.

It seems the unrecognized tribes have more “want to” and the recognized tribe has more resources. Both ingredients are needed to make this important tourist attraction viable.

Maybe all three Native American groups can work together to convince the state to either do something or let them do it.

I love history. I also love pecans. I’m not a big fan of government bureaucracy and red tape.

It seems in these two cases, we have all three.

AVOYELLES JOURNAL
BUNKIE RECORD
MARKSVILLE WEEKLY

105 N Main St
Marksville, LA 71351
(318) 253-9247