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Big guns renewed

In the Pacific Northwest, rain can wreck many things from weekend plans to historic monuments.

At Fort Casey, the historic coastal fort located on Central Whidbey Island, rain was saturating the ground around several of the fort’s cement structures, causing them to sink, crack and allow water into the fort’s underground rooms.

The most noticeable areas of damage were the cement blast aprons surrounding the fort’s two trademark 10-inch rifles.

The big guns, which island civic groups, the state Legislature and community businesses and individuals brought to Fort Casey in 1968 from Fort Wint in the Philippines, have served as Fort Casey’s most popular tourist draw and were becoming damaged and unsafe.

“There is basically no more of these types of rifles left,” said Park Ranger Jim Spaulding. “They cut them up for scrap metal in World War II. So, we’re real fortunate to have these two rifles, and that’s what the fort is famous for.”

For the fort to fix the structural damage around the guns and to ready the guns for the public, park rangers and park managers closed the guns and surrounding areas to visitors for approximately six months.

“In order to showcase the guns and to help with the water intrusion, they knocked out the two existing blast aprons on the two guns, crushed it up to recycle it, leveled up the ground and then poured two new blast aprons here,” Spaulding said.

To ensure the same damage does not happen again in the near future, the fort workers filled in the land around the blast aprons with a clay-based soil which allows the rain to run away from the fort’s walls, instead of seeping into the ground around them.

Workers also poured a water resistant, non-slip sealant and painted a water-resistant green and black paint on the horizontal urfaces around the guns and their blast aprons.

In addition to the improvements and repairs, workers added a historic ammunition hoist to the gun area. The hoist, which has been restored to a functioning state, was used to hoist shells, gunpowder and oil from the storage rooms to the gun deck.

Spaulding said the improvements on the fort’s guns, blast aprons and ammunition hoist are just some of the many improvements that fort workers and state park employees have completed on the fort’s premises over the past few years.

Chuck Juras, construction and maintenance project specialist, said workers redid, remade, re-riveted and fixed many of the fort’s doors, fixed cracks in the fort’s two battery commander stations, repaved parking, recreated the fort’s surrounding foliage to match historic landscape.

Spaulding said the permanent staff and park employees at Fort Casey have all attended historic preservation school. They use this training to try and maintain the fort in a state that closely resembles its historic state.

“This park was chosen as a model stewardship park,” Spaulding said.

He said this means out of all the state parks in Washington, Fort Casey and three other parks stand out above the other parks for the parks’ historic accuracy, model maintenance and upkeep.

“We are supposed to be an example for the other parks,” Spaulding said.

The fort’s guns and battery area are now open to visitors.

Since reopening the guns, the park has already had visitors from all over, stopping by the fort to see the guns and take pictures.

Bellevue resident Shannon Myers said she and her family come to the fort every year. This year, her kids were enjoying the newly restored and reopened guns, their large metal sound, their ladders and the historic play these guns foster.

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