When the Kern County Parks and Recreation Commission voted 4-0 in late January to approve the county's master plan for Hart Park, it was made clear the vote came with a caveat — the understanding that preserving the park's Depression-era adobe house was a significant concern for many.

The adobe structure, a former park ranger residence sometimes called the "Peacock House" for all the peacocks that live nearby, was slated for demolition in the master plan, but by the end of the January meeting commissioners and members of the audience appeared satisfied that county staff understood the depth of their concern and that the plan to demolish would be put on hold.

"We were given the impression that they were going to work with us to save the Peacock House," Commission President Kathleen Chambers said Thursday. "That understanding was my basis for voting yes on the park plan."

That's why Chambers said she was taken aback when the county's Chief General Services Officer Geoffrey Hill indicated at Wednesday night's meeting that the county plan to demolish the house remained in place.

He used the term "demoed," said Marion Vargas.

"He said it very clearly," she said. "It was so definite the way he said it.

"People care deeply about that little piece of history at Hart Park. It's one of the only pieces of history left at the park."

Reached by email Thursday afternoon, Hill indicated he did not have time for an interview, and left a single sentence in response to a question about what he told the commission Wednesday.

"The Hart Park Plan (has) not yet been presented to or approved by the Board, so no decision has been finalized relative to any of the improvement plans at Hart Park," Hill said in an email.

Third-District Supervisor Mike Maggard, who has been protective of the old adobe house for more than a decade, said he believes the concerns — and hackles — raised at Wednesday's meeting were probably the result of misunderstanding.

"My hunch is the plan hasn't changed," he said.

But Maggard was clear in his determination to prevent the demolition of the one-time ranger house.

"I'm still in favor of the ranger house being preserved," he said. "It could add to the ambiance of the park, not take away from it."

As it stands now, the removal of the house would make room for an entertainment center and a place where taco trucks and other concessions might be allowed to do business.

Should the plan come before the Board of Supervisors with language for the destruction of the house still in place, Maggard said he would work to have it removed before a vote.

"My clear understanding is that house will be preserved," he said.

Steven Mayer can be reached at 661-395-7353. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter: @semayerTBC.

(3) comments

Really

The Adobe House needs to be preserved - Period!

Sr Tito

I believe there is an innovative fiscal path for preserving the adobe structure at Hart Park that should be explored if interested by County officials.

Under the federal HUD CDBG program, funds may be eligible to acquire, preserve, and rehabilitate historic designated structures. Normally, for this to occur numerous milestones must be met. The most difficult one is national objective qualification. The normal national objective qualification triggered is meeting a low to moderate benefit criteria. Under this regional park scenario, I doubt this is feasible. However, the other national objective that could potentially work is under the urgent need benefit test.

For this to work the following steps typically or generally need to take place:
1 - the County Board of Supervisors needs to declare an Urgent Need for this activity.
2 - the County Consolidated Plan needs to have language that preservation is a need/goal, if not it could be amended
3 - a project NEPA review needs to take place
4 - the County HUD Action Plan needs to be amended to incorporate the activity
5 - if approved by HUD funds can then be used to initiate rehabilitation

Unfortunately, this process could take from 6 to 12 months before funds become available for preservation (assuming no further federal government shutdowns). I suggest the 3rd Distirct Supervisor staff with assistance from the Planning Dept./CAO take the lead on this if interested since the project is in the 3rd district. I believe this scenario has successfully been pursued throughout the U.S. For further details check out this site for HUD specifics - https://www.hud.gov/sites/documents/DOC_13716.PDF.

Happy Reading - Sr Tito

Stephen

What is needed is an assessment and recommendations by architects and/or engineers specializing in historic preservation. They must be qualified with NEPA, CEQA and the California Historical Building Code. Familiarity with the nature and behavior of adobe as a material of construction is paramount.

So why keep the adobes? Hart Memorial (regional) Park is a popular destination for the public, particularly members of the low income population. As such it gets much use. Lacking in the parkway corridor along the Kern River is any kind of interpretive center to provide information on the biology of the river and park corridor. The park and the entire Kern River Parkway corridor could be explained here with the building serving as a piece of history at a specific point in time, that of the federal and county programs to recover from the Great Depression. It could be staffed with volunteer docents from the various environmental and historic related organizations as is done in other communities with similar assets.

With the educational value of having as an interpretive center, a building that reflects a direct aspect of that history in a point in time, we need to focus more on preserving our history rather than trying to shove it aside for transitory convenience. Other communities have done this. There is no reason why we can’t join them in celebrating rather than disparaging and dismissing our past.

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