The 80-year-old Depression-era Adobe House in Hart Park is not much to look at. Yet.
Last year, the aging structure was placed on a fast track for transformation as hopes soared and plans formed to transform the modest building once slated for demolition into an attractive visitor and interpretive center operated by volunteers.
Unfortunately, the fast track has slowed.
"At our last meeting, county staff indicated the county did not have a timeline to finish the project. That's a concern," said Eddy Laine, acting secretary for the Hart Park Working Group, an organization that advocates for the continual improvement of the 370-acre county park.
"Without some sort of goal post, we're all in limbo," Laine said.
The change comes in stark contrast with the confidence expressed last fall that construction on the project would begin this spring.
At a Nov. 15 meeting of the Working Group, county staff indicated that construction work could begin after the end of February. The work had become possible thanks to a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant secured by Kern County Supervisor Mike Maggard.
Just two weeks previously, Maggard had thrown his political capital and his passion for Hart Park behind the plan to save the Adobe House, while at the same time, making it a shining gem in the crown jewel of Kern's park system.
It wouldn't have happened, Maggard said in October, without the energy and vision of the Hart Park Working Group, the Kern River Parkway Foundation and other organizations and individuals.
"Bidding will start in March 2020, construction will begin in April 2020," Maggard said at the time. "Our goal is to have it completed by June 2020."
On Tuesday, Maggard acknowledged his vision was "aggressive and hard-charging" — and maybe a little overly ambitious. But with the complexity that comes with a public-private partnership, the preservation of a historic structure, and an unpredictable pandemic, he remains confident that the project will come to fruition.
"It is true the project has fallen behind from where I hoped it would be by this time," Maggard said Tuesday. But he said the county's General Services Department understands the project is a priority.
"And they are honoring that," he said.
Indeed, Chattel, Inc., historic preservation consultants based in Los Angeles, have been contracted by the county to prepare plans for the restoration of the Adobe House, also known as the Peacock House due to the presence of peacocks near the building.
"The organization and management of the Interpretive Center will be a collaborative effort," Craig Smith, the president of the Kern River Parkway Foundation, told The Californian late last year. The complex partnership will include the county of Kern, Cal State Bakersfield, the Kern County Superintendent of Schools, local nonprofit organizations, and numerous individuals who will volunteer their expertise and talent as docents.
But if the end-product is anything like the proposed design for the house and the grounds that surround it, it could become transformative.
At Tuesday's meeting of the Kern County Board of Supervisors, Maggard said, he learned the county is facing a fiscal shortfall of $40 million to $80 million caused by the unprecedented coronavirus lockdown.
The county will be "on the hunt" to make up for that shortfall, Maggard said. "They'll be looking at every nickel."
But the Adobe House project has already begun. Funds have been spent. And Maggard is committed to completing it.
"I want this thing done," he said.