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Winner: Jantzen Beach Carousel closure, Portland, OR
Since the late 1920s, the historic Jantzen Beach carousel had been turning, delighting generations of Portlanders first in an amusement park, later in the center of a mall that replaced the park. The restored 72-horse merry-go-round was, until 2008, on the National Register of Historic Places, but was de-listed in anticipation of a move. This year, facing a $50 million mall makeover in an area that will also be greatly impacted by the Columbia River Crossing project, the carousel has been dismantled, put in storage, and is now listed only on the Historic Preservation League of Oregon's "most endangered list" for the year. The concern: its future is unclear. The building that housed it has been demolished and plans to re-incorporate the carousel into the new mall are vague. Local heritage advocates are worried that it will be lost in the re-development shuffle and want assurances that it will be kept in Jantzen Beach.
Maybe they should call it the "Dismember Pass"
Winner: The bozos in Olympia who are dismantling the state parks system
The Washington state parks system turns 100 in 2013, and is said to be at a crossroads. If it is, it's a crossroads where it's in the middle of a devastating slow-motion wreck. State funding has been slashed — down from $94.3 million in 2007-09 to $17.2 million for 2011-13. Worse is yet to come.
Budgeters in Olympia in 2011 came up with an idea to help balance the state budget: Slash the state parks system and hope to zero it out of the general fund completely in 2013. How to do that? Go to a user-fee system charging $10 for admission to parks or a $30 annual Discover Pass. Never mind that we're still recovering from the Great Recession, that gas prices have been sky high, that the fee system was instituted overnight with little warning. Residents were hit with sticker shock. And never mind that no state park system in the country operates without at least some taxpayer support. The parks budget counted on selling $53.7 million in park passes, but that wasn't rooted in any kind of reality. In it's first year, the Discover Pass brought in less than half of what was expected and even with more marketing, Parks anticipates about the same for this year, meaning a projected shortfall of around $27 million.
The damage is scary: fewer rangers, less maintenance, eroding infrastructure, less security, inadequate funds to deal with long-term stewardship issues, and an uncertain future. Not only does parks help protect the natural environment, but according to a Parks commission's 2012 report, the 117 Washington State Parks have "the largest collection of historic buildings, artifacts and other resources among state agencies." They oversee some 700 historic structures. They're responsible for more than buildings: Parks protects vulnerable Native American cultural resources too, like ancient petroglyphs.
Parks has made some changes to the Discover Pass program that improve it (a pass can now cover two vehicles, for example). In these budget times, a user-fee system has to be part of the mix. Parks will have to work harder to raise funds from other sources, including donations, grants and other fees. But the Discover Pass system was instituted too quickly with the unrealistic idea that Parks could become self-funding virtually overnight. As a result, Parks will now have to fight its way back into the general fund at a time when the new governor and state senate have committed to no new taxes and with other agencies competing for a piece of the pie. Parks plans to request $27.2 million for support for the next biennium (2013-15). Zeroing them out is not a viable option. To celebrate their centennial, we owe the system — and ourselves — a sustainable model.
Winner: Packard House demolition, Anacortes, WA
Identified by the Department of Archeology and Historic Preservation as one of Anacortes' "most significant properties" and listed by the Washington Trust as a "most endangered" structure in 2005, the Packard House built in the late 1920s was razed in December. The historic, Federal Revival-style home on Fidalgo Bay in the Cap Sante neighborhood fell victim to plans to subdivide the property for development because of its prime views. The home was considered one of the "finest and most faithful" example of its style in the region and was modeled on George Washington's Mount Vernon. The original owner of the house was Charles Q. Adams who apparently died on the day he and his wife moved into it in 1930. It was named after the long-term subsequent owners. Some neighbors rallied to save the structure, but efforts to move it failed. Over the years, the vacant house deteriorated while legal battles over the property turned into what has been called a "legal quagmire."
Winner: The many faces of Kennewick Man
Last October, Douglas Owsley, head of the Smithsonian's Department of Physical Anthropology and a scientist allowed to study the controversial bones of Kennewick Man, gave a sneak preview of his much-awaited findings to leaders of the Mid-Columbia tribes and to members of the public in Eastern Washington. While many people were excited to learn more about the 9,200-year-old bones, some academics were not happy. University of Washington associate professor Peter Lape, Curator of Archaeology at the Burke Museum, which has custody of the bones, objected to the lack of a peer-reviewed publication of the findings so that other researchers would be able to assess the validity of Owsley's conclusions. As Lape told Crosscut writer John Stang, "He's never published any scientific results of his studies. There's no place for anyone to look at the actual data. ...You have to have a higher amount of scrutiny in the scientific process." Owsley says he is editing a book written by various specialists who have studied the bones that should be out in about a year.
Still, everything related to Kennewick Man seems to fuel fanciful speculation. For example, numerous portraits of K-Man allegedly based on facial reconstructions from his skull look nothing like one another. In the '90s, Jim Chatters and Thomas McClelland sculpted a bust of K-Man look made him look uncannily like actor Patrick Stewart, who played the fictional Starship captain Jean-Luc Picard on Star Trek the Next Generation. Then there was the cover of Time Magazine in the mid-00's that showed a smooth-faced youth who looked like the lead singer in a multi-culti boy band. And now the latest reconstruction accompanying Owsley's findings shows a bearded, long-haired middle-aged man who looks like a character from Game of Thrones. With so much "science" we don't know what to believe.
Turning a Craftsman into a Parking Lot
Winner: Linger House demolition, Idaho Falls, ID
Each year, the Idaho Historic Preservation Council gives out its "Orchids and Onions" awards to the best and worst of historic preservation for the year. They are one of the few preservation groups I know that give recognition to bad behavior. So, I approvingly present their 2012 Onion winner: the demolition of the H. K. Linger House in Idaho Falls. The Craftsman-style house was built around 1910 and for many years was the residence for the First Presbyterian Church. Preservation Idaho says is could have been "retained, maintained, or re-purposed," but instead it was bulldozed for a parking lot. Now the church can add a Turkey to their Onion for their poor decision, which not only hurts Idaho heritage, but is an example of a terrible environmental trade-off. There's nothing greener than an existing building, and turning one into landfill for a paved parking is some kind of a sin.
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