The New Office Building at the Treadwell Mine Historic Area, shown on Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018, has received a new metal roof and a fresh coat of paint inside and out. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

The New Office Building at the Treadwell Mine Historic Area, shown on Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018, has received a new metal roof and a fresh coat of paint inside and out. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

‘History comes alive’: Treadwell preservation vision looks to balance education, recreation

Vision for historic area gives more immersive experience

Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that George Utermohle and Paula Terel spoke as members of the Grateful Dogs of Juneau board at a city meeting. They were there as individuals, not as members of the organization. Utermohle said the organization has not taken a formal position on plans for historic preservation of the Treadwell Mine Historic Site.

Historic preservation is not a fast, cheap or particularly exciting process to most of the population.

Paulette Simpson, the president of the Treadwell Historic Preservation and Restoration Society (THP&RS), knows that.

“It takes time,” Simpson said, “because historical preservation isn’t sexy.”

For some Juneau residents, the future preservation of the Treadwell Mine area is extremely interesting for various reasons. The mine was the biggest gold mine in the world at its peak, and held great significance for the Juneau area and Alaska as a whole. Now, the area is one of the most trafficked walking areas for people, dogs, cross country teams and more.

Balancing those two functions — recreation and education — will be part of the challenge in designing the area’s future.

The City and Borough of Juneau Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee approved an updated plan for the future of the Treadwell Mine Historic Site on Oct. 8. The plan envisions a somewhat immersive experience, complete with boardwalks, railways and a small plaza that are similar to what existed before the mine’s collapse in 1917.

Deborah Mattson, who was a summer intern for Corvus Design, put the plan together. Both Simpson and fellow THP&RS board member Wayne Jensen both explained in interviews Monday that the plan is strictly conceptual and there are no plans to implement it any time soon.

Simpson referred to the Savikko Park Master Plan that was passed in 2008, saying that hardly anything the city approved in that plan has come to fruition in reference to the Treadwell Historic District. This is because more pressing projects have had to take place, most notably the replacement of the roof of the iconic pump house.

Changes to the area have come slowly, Simpson said, because it’s an expensive project and because there are usually more pressing community needs and causes where people send their money.

The THP&RS has had success getting grant money, including a $125,000 Rasmuson Foundation grant to help reconstruct the roof of the Treadwell Office Building. CBJ liaison Gary Gillette said in a recent interview that the grant money combined with about $150,000 in CBJ sales tax, made it possible to build the roof.

Plans like this recent one, Jensen said, can prove valuable when applying for grants or asking for money from donors.

“Having plans are important for funders to see that we’re serious about this and to show what’s already been done,” Jensen said.

Jensen and Simpson said there isn’t any money set aside at the moment to implement anything in the plan, and there won’t be a huge makeover at any point. They’ll likely go roof by roof and sign by sign, Simpson said.

“Our goal has been to take it a little piece at a time so that the history comes alive more,” Simpson said.

Concerns about the plan

Not everybody was thrilled to see the conceptual future of the Treadwell area.

Juneau residents George Utermohle and Paula Terel both spoke at the Oct. 8 meeting. Both were frustrated that the public had not been involved in the process of putting this plan together.

“I think there needs to be a lot more public input and testimony,” Terel said in an interview. “It’s such a frequently used trail.”

During the meeting, Parks and Recreation Director George Schaaf said that if there were to be a sizeable project or change to the trails in the Treadwell area, the CBJ would have a public comment period, according to the meeting minutes.

Utermohle sent a letter to the PRAC members going into detail about more concerns of his. Dog walkers often go through the area, he wrote, in part because trees and shrubs in the area protect the trails from the harsh Taku winds. Utermohle wrote that he thought this plan was focused too much on the historical aspects of the area and not enough on the natural aspects of the area.

Jensen said the vision is not to cut down all the trees, but to clear out some trees and some brush to make for better sight lines and for safer paths. He reiterated that this plan is not going to be implemented any time soon and parts of it might never be implemented. It’s merely one vision for the future that could help encourage donations and give them ideas for the future, he said.

• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.

This historic photo shows office buildings for the Treadwell Mine, sometime between 1896 and 1913. (Courtesy Photo | Alaska State Library Historical Collections)

This historic photo shows office buildings for the Treadwell Mine, sometime between 1896 and 1913. (Courtesy Photo | Alaska State Library Historical Collections)

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