Inside the Capitol

Friday, December 14, 2007

12-19 Park Service Plans to Defile a State Treasure


Syndicated Columnist

      SANTA FE -- The National Park Service has done it again. In recent years, the NPS has consistently disregarded almost everything the agency is supposed to represent.

      It tried to rewrite management policies to allow snowmobiles, off-road vehicles, cell towers and commercial advertising into national parks.

   A bipartisan group of senators in a hearing before the Senate National Parks Subcommittee let the department know it wasn't going to get away with changing law through the use of management policies.

   Then the NPS tried to sell off 15 national parks to help reduce the federal budget deficit. One of those parks was Theodore Roosevelt Island in the Potomac, named for the great Republican conservationist.

   There have been other efforts by the Bush administration to privatize and commercialize national parks despite the primary purpose of the department being to preserve what nature has given us.

   Now, to cut more costs, the director of the NPS Denver office wants to move 90 additional employees into Santa Fe's former regional office. That office is housed in a building that is designated a National Historic Landmark.

    It is known as the largest adobe office building in the world and it is a thing of beauty. It was conceived and designed in 1939 as an artistic entity, with its exterior and interior as a single artistic creation. And is of major significance in the history of the NPS.

   But the transfer of so many employees into the building will necessitate reworking its interior to create what sounds like a typical governmental cubicle farm.

   Many of the present furnishings would have to be removed. This includes some of the artwork, furniture, craftwork and artifacts uniquely designed for the structure by Hispanic artisans. They all are elements that led to the National Landmark designation. Many were created in the building, for the building.

   There are photographs on display showing specific pieces of the furniture being created in the building by Hispanic artisans working for the Civilian Conservation Corps and the Works Progress Administration.

   I am told that that degree of historical integrity does not exist at most places which have been designated as national monuments. Over the years, many have suggested that this building on Old Santa Fe Trail should become a national monument.

   This act of total disregard for the history, status and importance to the NPS is very likely to be the impetus for several organizations pursuing national monument status for the building. That will require participation of New Mexico's congressional delegation.

   To make room for the cubicles, some of the furnishings will have to be removed. Plans call for them to be stored in Arizona. Reportedly, some items already have been removed, very possibly in violation of the building's historic status.

   The Park Service building was conceived and built with such energy and enthusiasm that it is distressing to see the current lack of appreciation or understanding by present officials.

   History tells us that when the NPS regional director requested a headquarters building be located in Santa Fe, he received almost immediate approval. That was fortunate because he already had secured a donation of eight acres and had moved several key personnel to Santa Fe months earlier. Within five days, the foundations were being dug and adobes were being made.

   Too bad government projects can't move that fast now. Unfortunately the plan to convert the interior of this magnificent  building into a typical federal office complex may be moving with equal speed.

   Many historical preservation associations are quickly responding but transfer of the building's depression-era treasures already had begun before any notifications were issued.

   It is ironic that government attempts are underway to harm the National Park Service at the same time the White House is featuring our national parks in its Christmas decorations.

   The descriptions sound lavish. It's too bad that money couldn't have gone to our national parks instead..

WED, 12-19-07


JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505

(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)



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