California's "Big 5" Propose Saving Some Park Funding, but the Battle is Not Yet Won

Posted on: July 21st, 2009 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 1 Comment

 

Written by Anthony Veerkamp

Last night, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and the leadership of the State Senate and Assembly (collectively known as the “Big 5”) announced that they had reached a deal on the state budget.

While the budget deal is not yet available in print, several sources have confirmed that the agreement to erase California’s $26 billion deficit would result in a net budget reduction for state parks of $8 million for the fiscal year that started July 1. More specifically, the proposed budget would actually eliminate $70 million of the state parks General Fund as originally proposed in the Governor’s budget, but replaces (“backfills,” in legislative parlance) $62 million of that amount with other funding sources.

While not nearly as draconian as the Governor’s original budget proposal, the $8 million cut will still be bitter medicine for a state parks system that has already endured decades of chronic underfunding. Some park closures are likely, possibly on the magnitude of 30+, but there is no park closure list at this time.

Nor can preservationists and park advocates assume that the worst is over; few believe that California’s economy has hit bottom, and there are concerns that the general fund revenue estimate upon which the deficit and the new budget are based may be overly optimistic. Preservationists will need to keep up the fight to assure maximum protection for countless historic sites in the state park system.

The Department of Parks and Recreation now has the task of putting together information about the costs, legal requirements, operational requirements, and a host of other considerations to determine which parks to close.

Meanwhile, the budget is expected to go to the full Legislature for a vote on Thursday or Friday, where the deal must be agreed to by a 2/3 vote. While the agreement by the Big 5 makes passage likely, there is much in this budget that both Democrats and Republicans hate, so it is still premature to declare this budget a done deal.

While a budget that further cuts funding for state parks is hardly something to celebrate, this outcome is better for state parks than most people could have imagined. The fact that the budget deal restores over 88% of the Governor’s proposed cuts is a testament to the tireless advocacy of tens of thousands of preservationists and parks supporters who participated in the Save Our State Parks Campaign and told the elected leaders of California that these places matter.

Learn More:

Anthony Veerkamp is the Senior Program Officer for the National Trust for Historic Preservation Western Office.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.

Take Action: Tell Wal-Mart You Know the Ugly Truth About Their Plans for the Wilderness

Posted on: July 21st, 2009 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 1 Comment

 

Written by Rob Nieweg

Wilderness-Route-3

Click here to ask Wal-Mart to find an alternate site.

As we’ve reported, Wal-Mart wants to build 240,000 square feet of big-box development within the boundaries of Wilderness Battlefield and just across the road from the Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park in Orange County, Virginia.

We’re very grateful that Virginia’s Governor Tim Kaine believes Wilderness Battlefield is “supremely important” and that he has “strongly encouraged” Wal-Mart to find an alternative site away from the battlefield and National Park. Why isn’t Wal-Mart listening?

Wal-Mart's project would irrevocably harm the battlefield, undermine the visitor's experience of the National Park, and open the door for more incompatible large-scale development at this vulnerable site. That’s why preservationists have asked Wal-Mart to relocate the planned development to another site in Orange County away from the battlefield and National Park.

Unfortunately, the local Board of Supervisors is likely to approve Wal-Mart’s proposal in late July 2009. However, it is in Wal-Mart's power to change their plans and relocate the planned development.   Click here to send an email to ask Wal-Mart’s CEO Michael T. Duke to protect Wilderness Battlefield.

Wal-Mart plans to build on a highly significant Civil War battlefield.

MYTH -- “’We recognize the significance of the Wilderness Battlefield, but we are not building on the battlefield,’ said Keith Morris, a spokesman for the world’s largest retailer.” Associated Press, January 2, 2009.

FACT -- “The proposed Wal-Mart development site is located entirely within the boundaries of the Chancellorsville and Wilderness Battlefields.” Kathleen Kilpatrick, Virginia State Historic Preservation Officer, June 8, 2009.

Wal-Mart’s development would be plainly visible from the National Park.

MYTH -- "’We've gone to great lengths to try to work with residents, county planners, state officials to come up with a very unique design that fits within the unique character of Orange County Wilderness. And we've built the store to be furthest back from the site as possible. You won't be able to see it from any of the battlefield park,’ said Keith Morris, Wal-Mart's public affairs director.” abcnews.com, May 24, 2009.

FACT -- “It has been claimed that the proposed development will not be visible from within the boundaries of the Park, particularly from Ellwood Manor. This is untrue. The Park extends all the way to the Route 3 and 20 intersection. The development will be obviously visible from there.” Russ Smith, Superintendent of Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park, May 20, 2009.

Wal-Mart has been offered alternative sites for its big-box development in Orange County but away from the battlefield and National Park.

FACT -- "’I asked a real estate agent to talk to Wal-Mart,’ Azimipour said recently. ‘He told me that Wal-Mart was only interested in the property they had and if it didn't work out, they were out of Orange.’" Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, June 10, 2009, quoting Mansour Azimipour, president, A&K Development.

FACT -- “Orange County builder John Marcantoni has put an offer on the table that he wants the county and Wal-Mart to consider. He recently contacted both parties to invite Wal-Mart to locate on 75 acres along State Route 3 west of Lake of the Woods. … Marcantoni said yesterday that he had not received a reply from Orange County or Wal-Mart.” Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, June 26, 2009.

FACT -- "At least four major Route 3 landowners, including the Kings, have approached Wal-Mart with other sites for its store." Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, July 10, 2009.

FACT -- Wal-Mart is fixed on its current proposed site: "'It's the only site we've identified that we'll move forward with,' said Keith Morris, a spokesman for the company." Richmond Times Dispatch, July 13, 2009.

UGLY TRUTH -- On July 3, 2009, the Board of Supervisors abruptly fired Bill Rolfe, Orange County Administrator, “after the supervisors expressed their displeasure at an e-mail he had sent them on June 15, suggesting there was a better location for the proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter than on land near the Wilderness Battlefield. … In his e-mail, Rolfe told supervisors that it would be in the best interests of the county for them to ‘broker a deal that keeps Wal-Mart in the County and moves it away from the congressionally-approved boundary line of the Wilderness Battlefield.’'' Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, July 4, 2009.

Click here to tell Wal-Mart you know the truth and to ask them to protect Wilderness Battlefield.

Rob Nieweg is the Director of the Southern Field Office of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.

Conservation Sites in the West Threatened by Urban Growth

Posted on: July 21st, 2009 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 1 Comment

 

Written by Ti Hays

Ironwood Forest National Monument (Photo: BLM)

Ironwood Forest National Monument, Arizona (Photo: BLM)

In March, preservationists and conservationists cheered when President Obama signed into law the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009, which includes statutory recognition for the National Landscape Conservation System. Overseen by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the Conservation System contains about 27 million acres of federal land set aside for the protection of cultural and natural resources by previous Congresses and former presidents.

However, a report released last week by the Sonoran Institute examining the effects of urban growth on the Conservation System tempers somewhat our enthusiasm over this recent legislative success. According to the report, urban centers in the West—in particular, Phoenix and Las Vegas—are rapidly swallowing up the areas that once buffered Conservation System units from development. In some cases, as at Ironwood Forest National Monument near Tucson, housing developments are literally popping up along the borders of areas designated for protection

Sonoran Desert National Monument, Arizona (Photo: BLM)

Sonoran Desert National Monument, Arizona (Photo: BLM)

A litany of other problems introduced or amplified by urban growth are also discussed in the report, including vandalism to cultural sites, illegal off-road vehicle use, trash dumping, and target shooting, and inappropriate recreation. In one notable example, BLM was forced to exclude motor vehicles from 55,000 acres of the Sonoran Desert National Monument after off-road vehicle users repeatedly strayed from designated travel routes and caused extensive damage to the sensitive desert environment.

Lastly, the report questions whether BLM can effectively respond to the “special challenges” posed by urban growth, given that many units of the Conservation System are managed on a shoestring budget and law enforcement rangers are responsible for patrolling an average of 200,000 acres.

What can be done? Well, for starters, the report recommends that Congress increase funding for the Conservation System to $75 million, which would allow BLM to hire additional staff and commit more resources to protecting Conservation System units from the effects of urban growth. The report also recommends that BLM educate local governments on the need to consider the effects of urban growth on Conservation System units when planning for development on adjacent land. Finally, the report recommends that BLM pursue a variety of mechanisms, including land acquisitions, conservation easements, and legislative measures, to limit or prohibit development on private and public land adjacent to Conservation System units.

As shown by the report, urban growth in the West presents BLM with a complex array of management issues that will increasingly challenge the agency’s ability to protect many units of the Conservation System. Whether the agency can meet that challenge remains to be seen, and will likely depend in large part on the willingness of Congress to provide the Conservation System with the necessary funding and resources.

Learn more:

Ti Hays is the Public Lands Counsel at the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.

 

Written by Nancy Finegood

America the beautiful, or America the throw away society?

Here in our country, there is very little that we value enough not to throw away. This value system extends from our consumer goods to our families to our very livelihoods. When you think about it, our current economic crisis is in part caused by our willingness to throw any and everything away. We have outsourced the manufacturing of all kinds of goods, as well as the creation of innovative new technologies. We have convinced ourselves that only “new, better, improved” are the labels that will lead us to a healthier, more energy efficient future. We have also convinced ourselves that getting it cheaper is more important than having vibrant economic communities based on self sufficiency and sound conservation principles.

Photo: Dominick Gladstone, Act Naturally Studios

Photo: Dominick Gladstone, Act Naturally Studios

To do its part in reversing wasteful trends in a throw-away-and-buy-it-new world, and to reinforce the values of skilled workmanship, self sufficiency, and creating opportunities for economic development in the local economy, the Michigan Historic Preservation Network, partnering with the City of Kalamazoo, offered a first-of-its-kind course on the rehabilitation of historic windows. More than 20% of the housing stock in the U.S. was built before the 1950's. Many of these homes have features which cannot be easily duplicated. In fact, the next time you walk by a large Queen Ann with a wrap-around porch or look at a building with a protruding bay with rounded windows, be aware that the we have basically lost the expertise to manufacture curved glass for these housing applications.

Photo: Dominick Gladstone, Act Naturally Studios

Photo: Dominick Gladstone, Act Naturally Studios

The intensive, two-week historic windows rehabilitation course that we developed trained 12 individuals from diverse backgrounds (age, race, gender and Michigan geography) in skills which can provide them with a good source of income. In fact, unlike most businesses, a window rehabber can start a business with a minimal investment. What most individuals don’t realize is that old windows in good repair combined with storm windows are as energy efficient as any newer window product. Additionally, rehabilitation of an older window minimizes the amount of material that goes into a landfill by keeping the original window in place. Preservation work helps the environment and the local economy, all while maintaining our connections with the past.

Our students are enthusiastic about the skills they learned and will work as preservation and rehabilitation ambassadors. We must now create enthusiasm for local solutions to our local issues. I think the place to start is with our value system. We’ve thrown enough away. We still believe in miracles –  just ask Gregory Perry, the youngest student in the program at 18 years old. It’s now time for rebuilding, rehabilitating and preserving what is valuable within ourselves and our communities.

michigan-training

Nancy Finegood is the executive director of the Michigan Historic Preservation Network.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Guest Writer

Although we're always on the lookout for blog content, we encourage readers to submit story ideas or let us know if you've seen something that might be interesting and engaging for a national audience. Email us at editorial@savingplaces.org.

Saving South Pasadena: Conversation with a Front Lines Freeway Fighter

Posted on: July 20th, 2009 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 1 Comment

 

710_rally

Interview by Jason Clement

Ten years ago this month, a court-ordered injunction halted the reckless extension of Route 710 through the middle of historic South Pasadena, Pasadena and El Sereno. As a result, 1,000 homes and 6,000 trees were saved in a six-mile corridor that is home to a handful of National Register historic districts.

Though it never came to holding hands in front of a wrecking ball, the decades-long fight to save these neighborhoods is a fine case study in what we do every day as preservationists – come together to save places that matter.

On the eve of the official anniversary (it was this past Sunday), I had the great honor of reliving the fight against the freeway through the words and stories of Joanne Nuckols, one of an army of South Pasadena residents who stood up against 710.

Why did you decide to become a freeway fighter and when did you first get involved?

Well, I didn’t decide – it just naturally happened to me. My family moved into our South Pasadena home in 1967, and we were across the street and down a few from two very active freeway fighters. We were all raising our kids here and knew about the freeway. Everyone in town did. There were a lot of interesting things going on even back then, and it would have been hard to find someone who wasn’t following the issues and going to the public hearings and meetings.

You could say that my participation with the fighters heated up around the same time that the big 710 issues really started bubbling over. In 1987, I was appointed to our city’s transportation commission, which gave me a front row seat for the many important events that happened in 1989. That year, we had a march that got us a lot of national attention, we hired an attorney to officially represent our case, and we were named – for the first of five times – on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s annual listing of America’s 11 Most Endangered Places. It was a watershed year when the tide really turned in our direction.

El Sereno Family

This 1920s Spanish Revival home of the Granados family in El Sereno was slated for demolition to make way for the 710 freeway. This house is located in a locally significant district indentified by the City of Los Angeles, but which the California Department of Transportation refused to consider.

It starts as your hobby, but from there it easily becomes your life. In fact, some people even moved away to escape the fight because it really can become all consuming. However, regardless of how big of a monster it becomes in your daily life and how much of your schedule it eats up, it is something that simply has to be done. People realizing this and still choosing to dedicate their time to speak up is what helped us ward off the 710 extension for this long. And let me tell you, it has been a long time. The first time a line was thoughtlessly drawn down the middle of South Pasadena was in 1947. That’s over 60 years ago…and counting.

Over all the years and milestones, what is your fondest memory of the fight against 710?

The big rally and march in October of 1989 really stands out in my mind. We had about 1,000 people show up – remember we’re a small town – and we walked the route of the proposed highway extension with our megaphones and our homemade signs. There were cheerleaders from the local high school, kids on bikes with balloons, and even a mariachi band. Needless to say, we got a lot of attention, and I will always remember those moments.

However, warm fuzzies aside, the absolute best thing about that event is the fact that the whole idea for it came from a California Department of Transportation employee! It’s so ironic. They were the ones who planted the seed for this fight in the 1940’s, and now they were giving us tips for what proved to be our best public relations event.

Also, I’ll say that I will always remember the people who were involved in the fight, not just from South Pasadena, but from around the country. The legal teams, the preservationists, the environmentalists, the architects – those people were simply amazing, and they gave some much-needed weight to what we all knew was the right thing to do.

... Read More →

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.