Wednesday, October 5, 2005
It's true that a display in a park can attract vandalism and someone could get hurt climbing on it. Nevertheless, it was very disappointing to hear that the Bingen City Council voted to remove the old Broughton Lumber Co. flume from Daubenspeck Park.
On Sept. 20, in a 4-1 vote, Bingen's council members decided to ask the Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center in Stevenson to take the historic section of the old lumber flume from Daubenspeck Park, where it has been on display since it was donated by the Broughton Lumber Co. in 1988. It turns out that the Interpretive Center already has a wooden section of the Broughton flume on display, but museum representatives said they would love to obtain the piece that's now in Bingen, too.
Mayor Brian Prigel said the decision to remove the flume was driven by the concern that the structure is an "attractive nuisance." The fact is, however, that anything in a park -- even the playground equipment -- can be considered an "attractive nuisance" that could invite vandalism. Someone could get hurt on the swings or on the monkey bars, after all. Should these be removed also, then? The logic behind that reasoning doesn't fit the situation.
The real problem here is not that the section of the venerable flume is in the park, the problem is that it has not been maintained properly or displayed in a fitting manner.
The flume deserves to have an interpretive sign explaining to visitors what the unique item is, and what purpose it served over the decades from 1923, when the nine mile long flume was built, until 1986 when the mills it served in Willard and Hood closed down and the flume was no longer needed. It deserves to be cleaned up once in a while. And it would be nice to erect a flagpole next to the flume, where an American flag and a state flag could fly. That would be a simple way to call attention to the site and to help honor this vital slice of our region's history.
Next to the flume is a section of an old tree trunk, and the council also voted to remove that. The tree trunk has rotted over the years, and we agree that it's probably time for it to go. However, it might be possible to locate a fresher cross-section of a large tree from the Columbia River Gorge area that could be an integral part of a revamped display in the park.
Bingen is a proud mill town, and even though the flume connected mills in Skamania County, it nevertheless is a tangible reminder of our area's timber heritage and a manifestation of the importance of the forest products industry to the entire Pacific Northwest.
The fact that the flume is located directly across State Route 14 from SDS Lumber Co. adds to its relevance in Bingen, as the origins of SDS were closely intertwined with Broughton: The founders of SDS were Wally Stevenson, Bruce Stevenson, and Frank Daubenspeck. Daubenspeck had served as foreman of the Broughton mill in Willard for 23 years, while Donald Stevenson -- the father of Wally and Bruce -- was a partner in Broughton Lumber Co.
Council member Laura Mann had it right when she voted against removing the flume, and questioned why the city couldn't take the lead in rehabilitating it and providing a more appropriate exhibit to attract visitors to the site. If it's not too late for the council to reconsider, that is the course of action that ought to be followed here.
The flume is an irreplaceable item. It not only needs to be preserved, it deserves to be celebrated.