The old Broughton Lumber Co. flume -- a unique slice of local history that rests in Bingen's Daubenspeck Park -- won't be neglected much longer.
Jason Spadaro, president of SDS Lumber Co., offered to help to "refurbish and properly display" the section of flume in the park.
In a letter to Bingen Mayor Brian Prigel and members of the Bingen City Council, Spadaro outlined how the flume could be effectively preserved.
"[We] would like to work with the Gorge Heritage Museum to refurbish and properly display the section of the Broughton Lumber Co. flume located in Daubenspeck Park," Spadaro wrote on Jan. 17. "Our efforts would include adding legs to prevent kids from climbing on the flume, painting, landscaping, and signage that interprets the history of the flume sections and the historical ties of Broughton Lumber, Frank Daubenspeck, and SDS Lumber Co. In return, Broughton Lumber would like the option of returning the flume section to Broughton ownership for display at the mill site in Hood if our redevelopment efforts of this property are successful."
The development proposal Spadaro referred to involves a plan to build a "mini-destination resort" at the old Broughton Lumber mill site west of Underwood in Skamania County. The planned resort concept, which is under consideration by permitting agencies, would include condominiums, tent and recreational vehicle camping, and some retail development at the site.
The section of flume in Bingen was once part of a nine-mile long "conveyor" that was used to float timber cants from a Broughton mill in Willard to the Broughton planing mill at Hood. It was donated to the city in the late 1980s, but over the years, little has been done to preserve the historical item or feature it in a way that could attract the interest of visitors to the community.
Last September, the Bingen City Council voted 4-1 to remove the flume and donate it to the Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center in Stevenson. That decision sparked controversy, with some in the community urging the city to keep the flume as an important element of the history of the area. At the same time, representatives of the Broughton Lumber Co., which had donated the flume to the city, requested the right to reclaim it if the city no longer wanted it.
Last week, Spadaro said Broughton representatives would coordinate flume enhancements with museum staff, and prepare a landscaping and display proposal for the Bingen City Council to review.
Mayor Prigel said he supported the proposal.
"It looks like we'll likely be able to keep the flume on city property for the foreseeable future. We'll make it attractive instead of looking like a piece of junk," Prigel said. "I think it could be very beneficial for everyone. Our goal is having it displayed more appropriately. I think it's a good outcome."
The Bingen City Council passed a motion accepting the flume proposal with a 5-0 vote.
However, council member Betty Barnes requested that the city or members of the council not try to "micro-manage" plans for displaying the flume.
"Let's wait and review the ultimate proposal for landscaping and how the flume is presented," Barnes said.
Prigel suggested that the flume be put across Willow Street, to serve as an entryway to the park.
"It would catch the eye and is easily seen from SR 14," Prigel said. "It would act as a gateway to the park, and is less likely to be vandalized there."
Prigel pointed out that when the flume was in use, the section donated to the city of Bingen did span a roadway, so in that regard it would be an appropriate way to display the artifact.
"We'll coordinate with the museum for some type of plan to present to the city," Spadaro said. "Hopefully this will be a pretty straightforward deal."
Ruth Winner, director of the Gorge Heritage Museum, said the museum board endorsed the flume refurbishing concept last week. Then, on Sunday, Winner met with a group of six museum members and longtime residents of Bingen at the Gorge Heritage Museum for what she characterized as an "ideas" meeting.
"We wanted to find out what people would like to see happen with the flume," Winner explained. "We called the Chamber of Commerce too; this may be of interest to businesses. We didn't want to leave anyone out, and we felt it was necessary to reach out to the community."
Winner said the group "came up with about three dozen ideas," then settled on about a dozen ideas that will be incorporated into one general concept.
"We took into consideration the problem with kids climbing on it and that type of thing," Winner said.
Winner said a draft plan and a sketch of what the flume might look like after potential changes will be offered for consideration.
"I need to run the plan by Jason Spadaro first, and then we will present a draft to the members of the Bingen City Council on Feb. 6," Winner explained.