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N4T Investigators: Fort Lowell historic preservation, what's happening with millions of voter-approved funds?

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N4T Investigators: Fort Lowell historic preservation, what's happening with millions of voter-approved funds?

TUCSON (KVOA) — A historic park in Tucson has been designated for restoration using voter approved funds. But years have gone by, and there’s little to show for it.

Voters might remember Prop 407 a $225 million dollar bond package that passed in 2018. A big chunk of that money was dedicated to preserving Fort Lowell's history, but the project continues to stall.

"So it was crumbling, falling apart." said local historian Troy Van Zandt. 

Van Zandt is concerned about historic adobe structures surrounding Fort Lowell Park, which used to be an army post dating back to 1873. Canvas was drapped after last year’s monsoon. But Van Zandt says nothing has been done to maintain it, and the metal stakes are causing more harm than good.

"As you can see a large portion of it is just falling off right there, really not doing anything," said Van Zandt. "And it becomes structurally unsound."

Four years ago, $5.5 million in bond funds were dedicated to park improvement at Fort Lowell. But so far, only the pool and tennis courts have been completed.

What about the remaining $3 million dedicated to historic preservation?

"Part of it is we have to be sensitive to this being a historic preservation zone, and making sure we’re following the processes that the city has laid out," said Jasmine Chan, program manager with the City of Tucson. 

Following our inquiry, Chan told us construction on the historically significant Fort Lowell Museum would start August 10 and take 90-days to complete, to replace the adobe exterior, address drainage issues, and repair windows and doors.

"It’s supposed to start this week, we’re excited this is happening," said Chan. 

A day after our interview, Chan said asbestos was found on the roof delaying the project. No updated timeline has been given.

"Having said that, we are feeling like we’re seeing the light at the end of the tunnel," said Amy Hartmann Gordon, executive director of Presidio Museum. "We have some dates for some programming in the fall."

Gordon's team will help get the Fort Lowell Museum open again to the public with new historical exhibits, starting in October.

"We will start by doing what we’re calling pop up programming and that’s because we don’t want to rely on the building being open until we absolutely know," said Gordon. "And that’s totally based on the maintenance situation."

In addition to millions in voter approved funds, the City of Tucson received a $300 thousand dollar Arizona State Parks grant.

Van Zandt hopes it’s spent protecting ruins of the army hospital and calvary corral.

"You see it from the side; it's just so thin you can almost put your finger through it," said Van Zandt.

Gordon says March is the 150th anniversary of the establishment of the fort. She’s looking for docents and volunteers to work in the museum three days a week.

If you have a story you’d like us to investigate, email us at investigators@kvoa.com or call our tipline 520-955-4444.