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June 30, 2011 8:01 am

National Park Service to help preserve Heart Mountain camp chimney

Written by CJ Baker

Hoping to keep this iconic remnant of the former Heart Mountain Relocation Camp from collapsing, state and local preservationists plan to use recently-awarded National Park Service money to stabilize the 69-year-old brick chimney that helped heat the camp’s hospital. The structure and foundation will be studied this year, with work commencing next year. Hoping to keep this iconic remnant of the former Heart Mountain Relocation Camp from collapsing, state and local preservationists plan to use recently-awarded National Park Service money to stabilize the 69-year-old brick chimney that helped heat the camp’s hospital. The structure and foundation will be studied this year, with work commencing next year. Tribune photo by Carla Wensky

The tall, brick boiler house chimney is the most enduring icon of the former Heart Mountain Relocation Camp — and work is planned to keep it that way.

The National Park Service recently awarded a $215,911 grant to help stabilize the chimney, which is “in eminent danger of collapse,” say state preservation officials.

A study funded by the Wyoming State Historic Preservation Office last year found the chimney is leaning 16 inches out of plumb and eventually will topple if nothing is done. It helped heat the camp’s hospital complex, which provided medical treatment for the more than 11,000 Japanese Americans who were interned at the camp during World War II.

Park Service-funded work on the leaning chimney is slated for two phases. The first, to be completed this year, will document the chimney and its condition, along with the surrounding soil. From that study, experts will craft a plan to stabilize the chimney next summer.

The Park Service grant — one of 24 announced last week to help preserve Japanese American confinement sites — was awarded to the state historic preservation office, which is working with the Heart Mountain, Wyoming Foundation, the Bureau of Reclamation, the Park County Historical Society and the Wyoming State Historical Society. An interpretative panel and brochure will also be created with the federal funds.

The U.S. House last year passed a bill sponsored by Rep. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., that would study the feasibility of making 123 acres of the former camp a Park Service-managed site, but a companion bill from Sens. John Barrasso and Mike Enzi, both R-Wyo., didn’t pass the U.S. Senate before the end of the session.

Park Service regulations move sentry station

Strings attached to previous Park Service grants at the site did force a change in the non-profit Heart Mountain foundation’s plans for its under-construction Interpretative Learning Center.

The private, nonprofit foundation had originally planned to build a replica sentry station at the turnoff to the learning center, a stone’s throw north of U.S. 14-A, off Road 19. But because the Park Service has given money for the new center (about $1.1 million), the foundation has to use the agency’s restoration rules. Those require that “we have to be as close as possible” to the original sentry station site when erecting a replica, Christy Fleming, the learning center’s manager, told Park County commissioners last month. As it turns out, the original station was located about 150 feet south of the learning center driveway and in the center of what is now Road 19.

Citing safety concerns, commissioners balked at the foundation’s request to build the sentry station right next to the road in the county right of way. They questioned why the station couldn’t be built closer to the learning center despite the Park Service’s rules (“You’re already not historical being in the center of the road,” noted Commissioner Tim French), but said they’d support the foundation putting the station on the edge of the right-of-way. Commissioners also offered to provide gravel for a pullout for visitors checking out the station replica and a walking path from there to the Interpretative Learning Center.

“It’s going to draw a lot of people into this county to look at this (learning center),” French said.

Fleming said the foundation is expecting between 1,500 to 2,000 people for the center’s Aug. 20 dedication, and 600 people for an Aug. 19 get-together and pilgrimage dinner.

New executive director for foundation

A new executive director is helping the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation get ready for August’s grand opening celebration. Earlier this month, the foundation announced it had hired Stevan K. Leger for the open post. Leger, most recently the annual giving senior manager for the Buffalo Bill Historical Center, was chosen among 40 candidates from across the nation.

At the BBHC, Leger was in charge of fund raising and membership development. Prior to that, he served as a development director for several non-profit organizations in Wisconsin, working on marketing, fundraising, grant writing and public relations.

Dave Reetz of Powell served as the foundation’s executive director until his retirement last year.

The chairman of the search for a new executive director, Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation Board Member Pete Simpson, said the organization was delighted to have Leger. Simpson praised Leger’s “great depth of experience” in managing non-profits.

“Steve (Leger)’s past experience also has given him an understanding of regional tourism and local attractions, which will be important as we seek to become an important stop on the itinerary of visitors to the state of Wyoming and the Yellowstone area,” Simpson said.

1 Comment

  • Comment Link July 05, 2011 8:56 pm posted by clipstein

    all this deserves is no comment....... where is the american legion and vfw?????

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