Despite their good intentions to save an important piece of local history, Friends of Wauna Post Office, a group created to preserve the historic building on the Purdy Sand Spit, are running into opposition by local residents. Traffic, parking, adequate sanitation and restoration costs are their major concerns—concerns that Friends say will be addressed before any major work begins.
FWPO held a meeting in January to give residents a chance to voice their concerns, and to share some information about the project. Tim Kezele, KP Historical Society’s president; County Councilman Terry Lee, who has pledged support to the project; and the county’s Historical Landmarks Commission representative Airyang Julia Park shared their involvement with the project.
“We have an opportunity to save a piece of history,” Kezele summarized the thoughts of supporters. “I look at it as a way of helping … the community by bringing pride to the area.”
Some Wauna residents say they would rather use the spot for a bigger or improved boat launch. Lee says it would be next to impossible to obtain all the permits, especially since a bulkhead will be needed. “Because of the building’s historic significance, it’s exempt from many permits that are usually required,” he said.
If the proposed improvements exceed 40 percent of the building’s value, however, the structure will need to be brought to current fire codes; and if they exceed 60 percent, it will require approval from the health department, which could ask for handicapped access and a bathroom to be installed. The building has no running water, and only a portable bathroom outside.
Wauna residents have recently signed a petition against the renovation, saying they will not support the project until the traffic and parking are solved.
“We have a terrible traffic problem,” said Paul Garrison. “The Wauna curves are notorious for collisions.” In addition, he says, having strangers parking across the road and crossing to the spit could cost lives—and the cost of renovation would also be very high.
Nancy Lind, member of FWPO, says the renovation “will not cost the park district a dime” and would be paid entirely by private donations and grants.
“We’re going to get all our ducks in a row before we start,” she said, adding that FWPO will try to prove to local residents that they are good neighbors.
The group has volunteered many hours cleaning up the area, and plans to continue outside clearing work while the major issues are resolved, including a review by a structural engineer, which Lind said should happen within the next few weeks. The review will help determine if the building is sound enough to save, and help estimate renovation costs.
“I’ll be interested to see what the report says,” Garrison said. “We don’t want to be a bad neighbor or obstructionist…but people around here feel that something has to be done about the traffic and sanitation.”
A few days after the meeting, Lind and other Friends had an impromptu meeting with the neighbors at the spit. She says the group doesn’t plan to do anything that will make the neighbors uncomfortable.
“I am determined to do something about the spit because all of us have to look at it day after day,” she said. “I feel passionate about it.”
It was that passion that prompted Lind to resign on Jan. 26 from her post as chair of the park district, after a request was submitted for the district to postpone any public discussion about the restoration until a vote planned for this spring on making Key Peninsula a metropolitan park district (see related story).
The letter, from the chair of the metro district formation committee, Ben Thompson, says the issue has become “very divisive within the community and may have a negative effect on the outcome of the vote.”
“The metro park district should pass on its own merits,” Lind said. “But I couldn’t live with myself for another day if I went along with (being quiet)…The metro idea is too good of an idea … but they didn’t have to censure me.”
The remainder of the board voted in favor of the proposal. Thompson told the KPPRD board that he felt after the earlier Wauna meeting the issue may negatively impact his committee’s effort.
“The issue is coming at a bad time, when we’re trying to create a metropolitan park district,” Thompson said in an interview. “(The request) was intended to create harmony in the community… After the elections, we can concentrate our efforts on it, but now is not the time.”
Lind says she will continue to focus on the restoration as a private citizen. She plans to invite state legislators and others to an upcoming meeting to discuss the traffic and other problems at Wauna.
Danna Webster contributed to this article.