Historic buildings in Parkland?

By Morf Morford, Tacoma Daily Index

In a community with extremely few historic buildings, you’d think that preserving the few that are left would be an obvious strategy and policy.

As usual, in the context of historic architecture, you’d be wrong.

I’ll be the first to admit that historic architecture, is not the first thing that crosses the minds of most who pass those bland but somehow menacing “Welcome to Parkland” signs. (Am I the only one who has a sense of Twilight zone/Twin Peaks foreboding as I cross those borders?)

Pacific Avenue stretches from Tacoma’s waterfront to Mount Rainier. You could literally drive form Puget Sound to the mountain without changing course. The section between about S. 72nd to the Roy “Y” is about the grimmest landscape of strip malls, chain fast food, tattoo and pawn shops you could imagine. And they seem to repeat in a near-endless 1980s B-movie loop.

PLU vs Parkland?

Those who know Parkland, know that PLU is an anchor, a center of energy and culture, a place where things happen – and certainly Parkland’s largest civilian employer.

PLU is tied to Parkland’s identity and history. It is far from the extractive, cut and run industries well-known for exploiting resources and leaving company towns empty and depleted. PLU, if history is any indication, is not going anywhere. And PLU, like the surrounding community, has had challenging times.

PLU knows, or at least should know, that there are resources far more important – and enduring – than money. Trust, identity, a shared legacy and history are far more deeply rooted – and dependable – than money could ever be.

Just a few years ago the governing body of PLU made the decision to sell its most prominent public presence, one known and acknowledged around the world.

KPLU was a non-stop, 24/7 public relations dream for PLU. KPLU earned recognition on a global level and brought name recognition (at a minimum) to Parkland’s university.

Through similar moves, they quietly sought to sell the radio station to the highest bidder – and, like now, aroused a fire-storm of local opposition.

PLU also aroused a sense of betrayal – and squandered its most valuable resource; the trust and respect of the surrounding community.

The Parkland School has been an integral part of the larger community for generations. There is no reason for it to not continue to do so.

The KPLU/KNKX fiasco should have been enough to confirm to community members and local influences and leaders that trust and integrity – and a shared history are of immeasurable value – and easily lost.

Many in the community hope that in the future Parkland School will stand as a monument to an investment in the past – and the future – and a shared destiny in motion but not completed.

And like the KPLU/KNKX mess a few years ago, saving the Parkland School will require widespread community support.

A few years ago PLU offered the community the opportunity to buy KPLU at what seemed like an outlandish and impossible price.

They are doing the same thing now.

And I am convinced that the same thing will happen – the community, with a thousand hands, voices and donations will buy this building and make it far better than any of us could have imagined. To support this cause, donations can be made here.

If you have not been aware of this issue, you can get filled in here. If you’d like to keep posted on historic preservation across Pierce County of everything from coke ovens to one-room school houses, look here.