There may be fewer opportunities to visit Fort Caspar Museum next fall.
City officials are discussing seasonal closures at the facility as part of an ongoing effort to reduce Casper’s spending, said City Manager Carter Napier. Staff members are working on a recommendation for the City Council and plan to present the proposal within the next three months.
The closure could occur during winter months, though officials are still working out the details.
The regional history museum features a reconstructed 1865 military post, as well as exhibits on prehistoric people, Plains Indians, ranching, the energy industry and frontier Army life.
At least two local history buffs are concerned about the potential seasonal closure.
“We will push to preserve the year-round access to that museum,” said Kem Nicolaysen, president of the Natrona County Historical Society.
Nicolaysen said he enjoyed school trips to the museum as a child and doesn’t want current students to lose opportunities to learn about local history.
“Wyoming winters can be a little tough so it’s nice to have a place inside for people [to visit],” he added.
Since a decision has not yet been reached, Con Trumbull, the president of the Fort Caspar Museum Association, said now is the time to for the museum’s supporters to voice their concerns to local leaders.
“We are just trying to open up discussions and show them how important this site is to Casper citizens and to our heritage,” he said.
About 25,000 people visit the museum annually, including 1,500 students, Trumbull said. In addition to exhibits, the facility also offers special activities such as ghost tours and a Candlelight Christmas event.
The city manager said Thursday that he agrees the museum offers valuable services to citizens but said the city needs to consider various options for cutting spending to reduce Casper’s reliance on state funding.
Wyoming’s local governments have limited means of raising funds, which leaves them largely dependent on appropriations from the state Legislature. Given that the state’s boom-or-bust economy relies heavily on the energy market, local leaders are often uncertain about the level of funding they can expect to receive.
The state generally allots $105 million for city and county governments, but many municipality leaders are worried this funding might be reduced. The Legislature is set to convene Monday, and lawmakers will consider the state’s budget amid an energy slowdown that’s meant less revenue.
Even if the local governments receive the money this year, Napier said it’s a never-ending cycle.
“In 12 months we will have the battle again,” he said.