On May 17, the Pierce County Landmarks and Historic Preservation Commission almost did not have a quorum, but when the Vice Chair finally came on line 10 minutes late, they were surprised by the 41 people signed on to their Zoom meeting. It was stated that it was the largest turnout of any meeting they had ever had. And the reason was the proposed demolition of the Parkland School.
The Parkland School was built in 1910 as its own school district. It held classes from Kindergarten to 8th grade. Student seeking high education had to travel to Lincoln or Stadium High Schools in Tacoma, Puyallup High School, Roy, Kapowsin or after 1938, Clover Park.
In 1949, Ruth Bethel as Superintendent of Public Instruction, reorganized and consolidated many of the K-8 school districts into K-12. That created Franklin Pierce and Bethel School Districts and their new high schools. At that time, the Parkland School became Parkland Elementary, but the building facade was never changed.
On April 19, 2022, the PCLHPC held a meeting on the de-listing of the Parkland School as a historic site. There was no public attendance in that meeting because the community was not adequately notified. In the May 17, meeting, the commissioners clearly admitted this and called to move both the de-listing and the demolition questions to be moved to their June 21, 2022 meeting for a better chance for o the public to respond.
June 21, 2022, 6 p.m. the meeting of the Landmarks and Historic Preservation Commission will be held in-person at the Pierce County Annex, 2401 S. 35th St. Tacoma, WA 98409. The meeting room is just inside the front door to the left. It is a Public Meeting and the public is invited to testify 3 minutes or in writing.
Among topics that were explored on May 17, was the fact that no one on the Commission had considered the facts that were presented when the Parkland School was listed as an historic site. In fact, the commissioners did not know where to find this information. Another topic was that Pacific Lutheran University has been divesting itself of many properties in recent years, including the President’s House, the golf course and more. The Gonyea House was a gift from the Gonyea family for use as the President’s residence. It is now being subdivided into a housing development. Now, they are planning to sell and demolish the Parkland School for high rise apartments. Consideration for the sentiment of the public has not been a concern of the current regents.
Pierce Transit also has an interest in the intersections on Pacific Avenue around their Transit Center for the Parkland Area. In the new Bus Rapid Transit proposal, some are slated to become roundabouts. According to the BRT site, “Pierce Transit is pleased to announce that Pacific Lutheran University, with long-standing connections in Pierce County, has lent community support to the BRT project and will receive naming rights to two BRT stations at Pacific Ave & Garfield Street.” The community needs to explore this relationship and if it related to this decision on the Parkland School.
Change is not easy. Not all change is good, but it can be made better. According to Councilmember Jani Hitchen, the County has funds that could be used to update the Parkland School and make it into a community center. That suggestion was a crowd pleaser at the May 17 meeting.
The fate of the Parkland School is up to the local residents. Turn out and tell the County how you feel, or risk losing the most historic community building on Pacific Avenue. Where will you be June 21?
If you support saving Parkland School you can print this and put it in your window.