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Heritage Turkeys of the Year

Envelope, please: Politicians played heavy hands in the destruction of history across the Northwest, particularly in Seattle and Washington state, during 2012.

(Page 3 of 4)

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.

Fidalgo Fiasco
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."

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Posted Tue, Jan 8, 6:57 a.m. Inappropriate

It seems there's some irony in the Thiry family demolishing the office building and selling away a piece of the family's history.

This area really is in need of open space, so I don't think it's a bad decision. Unfortunately, I have little faith the Key will be adapted for future use.


Posted Tue, Jan 8, 9:23 a.m. Inappropriate

On September 5, 2012, the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board voted unanimously to designate the Cedar Park Elementary School building, designed by Paul Thiry, as a Seattle Landmark. This building is an example of a less-known Thiry work that has, perhaps surprisingly, been protected.

The Seattle School District wanted to destroy the building so it could use the site for a new school. The Cedar Park Elementary School building has not been used as a school for over 30 years; since 1981 it has housed the Artwood Studios, live-work spaces artists. Some current residents have lived in the building for more than 30 years.

Although Landmark designation protects the Thiry-designed Cedar Park School building, its current use as artist live-work housing is not protected. The latest School District proposal is to use the Cedar Park school building as temporary school space while another school (likely Olympic Hills) is demolished and rebuilt. This will mean evicting the artist tenants of the last 30 years and may require destroying a Seattle city park located on the former school parking lot and playground--the only city park in this northeast Seattle neighborhood.

The School District has so far announced no plan for the building and site after the need for temporary space comes to an end.

Posted Tue, Jan 8, 9:40 a.m. Inappropriate

The Parkers demolition was shameful, but not surprising as the City of Shoreline has not supported any efforts to save historic structures.

However, the most egregious example of failed historic preservation in Shoreline is the Ronald School. This building was long-protected by the Shoreline Historical Museum. The original school board who deeded the building to the Museum 25 years or so ago, intending its use as a museum to be perpetual, but was outfoxed by the current Shoreline School Board who underhandedly obtained the building after expressing its dismay that the structure had been landmarked. Now the once-stately Ronald School has been gutted, left open to the elements, had its carefully preserved original woodwork left to deteriorate and is over-powered by a modern structure to the rear. This is a case where the powerful Shoreline School District simply exercised its might against the City of Shoreline and its inhabitants for their own perceived benefit. Although the Ronald School was "protected" I do not consider this to be historic preservation in any sense of the word.


Posted Tue, Jan 8, 11:44 a.m. Inappropriate

The loss of the Coliseum would truly be tragic. I can't help but think that if the permanent seating was removed, and the floor restored to grade (enabling the re-burying of one of the roof support pillars) it could have a long future as an exhibit and convention facility.


Posted Tue, Jan 8, 12:36 p.m. Inappropriate

A failure on the part of the legislature to fund Washington’s State Parks system would be shameful. Not only would it put at risk a treasure trove of our state’s natural and cultural history, zeroing out the parks budget would potentially result in denying access to recreational opportunities across the state. And this at a time when the national conversation is all about exploring and enjoying the outdoors for our physical and mental health. Tough to do that without parks.

To their credit, staff at State Parks, along with the Parks and Recreation Commission, has proven creative and open to trying new things. While the Discovery Pass has not generated the amount of revenue as hoped, a fee system was overdue and will be part of the long-term solution. New fees are understandably unpopular, but consider this: Washington was the last state in the nation to adopt a fee system for its parks – a pretty commendable track record of providing recreational access.

And state parks are actively engaging in innovative partnerships. Just last month, the Parks and Recreation Commission voted to begin negotiations with the Port Townsend Public Development Authority (PDA) to co-manage Fort Worden State Park – a National Historic Landmark site with over 100 buildings and structures. The willingness of State Parks to partner with private, nonprofit entities demonstrates their understanding that the solution to the challenges facing our state parks is not going to be solely legislative in nature.

Posted Wed, Jan 9, 12:01 p.m. Inappropriate

Comment from Junius Rochester:

Thanks for the update on squandering our heritage.

I identified and described Thiry-designed homes in my book, "The Last Electric Trolley." And your comments about Kennewick Man were helpful. With guests who join me in visiting Palouse Falls from our small cruise ship anchored on the Snake River, I tell about K-Man and point out that his remains should probably be returned to the local Natives, especially Yakamas, for re-burial (at least that's what the 1970s Antiquities Act seems to endorse?).


Posted Wed, Jan 9, 11:56 p.m. Inappropriate

Including Douglas Owsley's presentation on the latest findings on Kennewick Man in your "examples of the worst in Northwest heritage and historic preservation during the last year" is either an uninformed cheap shot or a clever parody on the vapid reportage of the event, beginning with Linda Mapes' incoherent piece in the Seattle Times, and continued by John Stang writing in assassin-mode in Crosscut. You have identified perhaps the one characteristic of scientific reporting that changes from one report to the other with little explanation -- K-man's reconstructed appearance.

But wait! The most recent "revisionist" portrait shares a visage remarkably similar to ... Knute Berger. Shave off all the hair and whaddya got? A face like Patrick Stewart.


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