Update SE: A Big Job at A Big Mound – Cavanaugh Mound Preservation

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Major Erosion at Cavanaugh Mound
Erosion at Cavanaugh Mound
The Conservancy’s regional directors often to wear many different hats. The fun part is sharing the news that we’ve sealed yet another deal to permanently preserve an important site. Negotiations and fundraising can be long, nerve wracking processes, and once that’s done, the work isn’t over. With many sites, the work has just begun.
Once a site is acquired, the Conservancy has a responsibility to manage the property in a responsible manner. While the Conservancy has an overall site management document that applies to all over our sites, the way we maintain, protect and preserve sites often varies on an individual basis. Some sites may require little more than arranging for a local individual to periodically visit and mow a site. Some sites may need to be fenced or cleaned up. All sites are posted.
Cavanaugh mound
Looking at Cavanaugh mound
Each region has at least one site that requires more time, effort and yes, funds. One of these sites in the Southeast Region is the Cavanaugh Mound near Fort Smith, Arkansas. Cavanaugh is a large Mississippian/Caddo mound that was damaged many years ago by previous owners who, for reasons unknown, removed about a third of the mound and then later, dug a cellar in its side. The cellar was partially filled in and the “tunnel” entrance is no longer visible. In recent years, the mound has developed a severe erosion problem. The seriousness of this problem was compounded when it became apparent that a historic cemetery on top of the mound (for which the head stones had also been removed by a previous owner) also began to erode. This really is a massive mound and it will require many truck loads of dirt to cover the eroding side. Before much can be done, several large trees must be removed from the top and sides of the mound.
Major Erosion at Cavanaugh Mound
Major Erosion at Cavanaugh Mound
Another aspect to deal with is the fact that access to it is on a private road, which would probably be damaged by large dump trucks carrying fill. If we damage the road, we’ll have to pay to have it repaired. Once we have figured out how to get the fill in, we’ll have to establish some kind of permanent ground cover so erosion doesn’t continue. The lot on which the mound sits is a little over an acre. There isn’t much room between the mound and the road, so we don’t have much space in which to work. Any and all work at Cavanaugh must be done carefully so it doesn’t damage any of the archaeology. We’ll get it done, and we’ve been very lucky to have lots of help and input from Director of the Arkansas Archaeologist Survey, George Sabo, and Arkansas Archaeological Survey Station Archaeologist Tim Mulvihill. Officials with The City of Fort Smith have also been helpful and we have lots of local friends who volunteered for a site clean up in 2010.
Removing Brush on Cavanaugh Mound, Arkansas
Cleaning up: Removing Brush on Cavanaugh Mound
All of this preservation work requires careful planning and creativity. It’s a big job that takes a lot of staff time as well. This is something we must always consider before pursuing an acquisition. If a site will require so much time and money that other sites and acquisitions may suffer, we may have to pass on acquiring it. In my region alone,  I’ve got a herd of goats and donkeys on an island to manage, I’ve had to oversee the installation of an unusual variation of a French drain on Civil War earthworks, I’ve torn down a house on a mound, board by board, in August, in Louisiana, and I’ve rebuilt a brick burial vault when a tree trimmer working for us dropped a limb on it and destroyed it. All of this could only be completed with the assistance of amazing local volunteers. As a former regional director once told me, “All the glory is in the “get.” You got the site, now the work starts.” He was right! But it’s always fulfilling and it’s never boring putting the real leg work into preservation!
–Jessica Crawford, Southeastern Regional Director
More Fantastic Southeastern Volunteers: The Right Team: Our Eyes and Ears in the Ground
Great Volunteers in the Midwest: Our East St. Louis Clean-up Team

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