After more than a quarter-century, the celebrated Knights Ferry Civil War Days battle reenactments have been cancelled due to an apparent disagreement of terms in the operating permit.
This week a message on the website for the American Civil War Association read, “I’m sorry to announce that Knights Ferry has been canceled, due to new restrictions by the US Army Corps of Engineers. Please stay tuned for more information from the ACWA Board as it becomes available.”
No additional information was released.
“The conditions communicated to us, as we are told, are new and restrictive,” said Stephen Aguirre, President of the American Civil War Association when contacted on Thursday, Feb. 25.
Aguirre said that a Feb. 11 special permit meeting was held with representatives from the US Army Corps of Engineers and disagreements with the “internal workings” of the event occurred. With the meeting late in their planning schedule and the disagreements, the ACWA officials decided to cancel the event scheduled for March 19 and 20.
Luke Burns, spokesperson for the US Army Corps of Engineers, said that nothing in the permit operating process for the ACWA has changed from any previous year.
Burns stated that ACWA was using a new event coordinator and during discussions it was requested that the US Army Corps of Engineers rangers do traffic control in and out of the event held near the Knights Ferry Covered Bridge.
“This isn’t something we would ever do and the rangers aren’t really trained to do as part of their duties,” Burns said. “The event is responsible for its own traffic control.”
Burns said that last year there had been some traffic issues that “got out of hand” and rangers did have to assist for public safety.
The primary issue was the ACWA’s practice of collecting “donations” at the entrance to the parking lot.
“It was being represented to visitors as a ‘parking fee’ leading people to believe it wasn’t something voluntary,” Burns said. “Our representative wasn’t saying they couldn’t collect donations, but just they couldn’t do it at the parking lot entrances to remove the perception that they were charging a parking fee.”
Burns said the ACWA was free to solicit donations throughout the area of the event, just not at the entrance, which also created some of the traffic issues.
“At that point (in the meeting) the American Civil War Association decided they didn’t want to hold the event,” Burns said. “This is not what we want at all. It’s popular in the local community.”
Robert Orr of ACWA was the event coordinator doing the negotiations at the Feb. 11 meeting.
Orr confirmed there was a big disagreement over what he called a “parking toll donation” where ACWA members asked for a $5 donation.
“They would not allow us to ask at the parking entrance for a $5 donation we call a ‘parking donation’,” Orr said.
Orr was told there would be another contract drafted spelling out the restriction and he advised that the ACWA could not accept those terms.
“That’s 80 percent of our revenue,” Orr said. “They would not relent.”
It is unknown at this time if the ACWA will be back next year. Aguirre said he would not rule out the event returning, but their participation depended on the “restrictions” put in place by the Corps of Engineers.
Both sides expressed disappointment that the annual event – staged at Knights Ferry since 1989 – would not occur this year.
“We’re all disappointed here that the reenactment won’t occur,” Aguirre said of the event where “history comes alive.”