Light goes out on restoration effort


Rodika Tollefson, KP News

Two opposing parties came to a Key Peninsula Metropolitan Park District in January prepared to argue why commissioners should vote for or against supporting restoration efforts of the historic Wauna post office. But by the time the meeting ended, the subject of the conflict became a non-issue.

The Purdy Sand Spit, where the building is located, is currently owned by Pierce County Parks, but will likely become a property of the KPMPD, now that some of the county’s funding goes to the local park district. The commissioners held the public hearing before they would vote on whether the MPD should support restoration efforts when — if — it acquires the property.

Nancy Lind, representing the Friends of Wauna Post Office group that has fought for the project for two years, was outnumbered at the hearing by a handful of neighbors, who have long protested the idea. Most supporters of the restoration, Lind said, were attending the KP Business Association’s annual dinner scheduled for the same night. She named several other groups that could sponsor the restoration besides the MPD, although the Friends group was not asking for financial support and was planning to raise all the funds needed.

Unlike some previous meetings on the issue, this one had a quiet if not cordial atmosphere. After Lind’s presentation, neighbors and others took three minutes each to tell the park board why they opposed the restoration idea.

By the time the comment period had ended, the meeting took an unexpected turn.

“I’m not going to pursue it any longer,” Lind said. “This is my final night. If you don’t want it, I say, ‘Tear it down.’ It’s your park, your neighborhood, your business…But I give up.”

The evening, it seemed, has achieved what two years of petitions, loud meetings and angry letters could not: It convinced Lind that saving the landmark was not worth it.

Lind has tried to argue the benefit of having a dedicated group oversee a park and building restoration by drawing a parallel with her experience at the Rocky Creek Conservation Area and the Home Park, both of which were filled with an enormous amount of garbage before they were cleaned up and turned into parks. Both efforts succeeded largely due to the efforts of Lind, along with several other volunteers who still maintain the two parks. The arguments fell on deaf ears, as residents drew concerns about traffic, safety, parking, water and others, and questioned costs and funding.

Although neighbors had been unwelcoming of Lind’s project until then, she drew a round of applause after the announcement and recognition of her extensive community contributions.

Despite the outcome of the hearing, the Wauna post office issue is far from being solved. The building is on the county’s historical register, which means the Pierce County Landmarks Commission would have to approve the removal — a move the commission denied two years ago when the county requested it, said Jan Wolcott, the county parks director who also attended the hearing.

“The landmarks commission will not let it be removed until there is no hope that it cannot be restored or moved, and as long as there is an effort to have it restored,” he said. With the Friends’ group conceding, the removal discussions are likely to start again, and residents stated they would approach the county about the next step.

Even if the removal is approved, the question of cost remains. Asked if the county had funding to tear down the building, Wolcott said he did not know. He said later in an interview that there was no money in this year’s budget for it. Although he couldn’t estimate a timeline of how long it would take to get approval from the commission, he guessed that it could be a year or more before demolition would be possible. That’s if another group doesn’t start restoration efforts.

The KPMPD board has indicated that if discussions were to start with the county regarding transfer of park ownership, the removal of the building would be a condition, since the Key Pen board doesn’t have removal funds either.

Lind wrote supporters after the meeting, “It has been two years since we started this and I have gone as far as I can… Without full community support …the neighbors are the final arbiter... I will never drive by there without nostalgia and regrets that it should have been otherwise.”

She later told the KP News, “I don’t regret the experience. But if the building goes, it’s going to be tough.”