SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


BLM Hands Over Land Where Historic School Sits To Borough
By Dick Kauffman


August 01, 2006

Ketchikan, Alaska - "It was a lot of struggle and effort to come to this place but like all things that are worth waiting for, I think this is one that's rare. Congratulations," Mike Zaidlicz said as he handed over ownership of the property on which the historic Clover Pass School building sits to the Ketchikan Borough. Zaidlicz, an Anchorage-based Associate Field Manager for the federal Bureau of Land Management, was in Ketchikan Tuesday for the event held at the Clover Pass School.

jpg BLM and Ketchikan Borough

Borough Planner Leslie Real; Borough Manager Roy Eckert; Historic Ketchikan members Thomas Ferry & Rick Hardcastle; Mike Zaidlicz Associate Field Manager for the federal Bureau of Land Management; and BLM Realty Specialist Shirley A. Rackley.
Photo by Dick Kauffman

Accepting the land ownership papers for the Ketchikan Borough were Borough Manager Roy Eckert and Borough Planner Leslie Real.

Shirley A. Rackley, Anchorage-based Realty Specialist with the federal Bureau of Land Management, was also in Ketchikan for the property transfer. She said she has worked on this project since 1998. She said there were lots of hurdles to jump to get to the point of transferring property ownership from the federal government to the Ketchikan Borough. Rackley said the biggest challenge was basically trying to get everybody to move on it.

Rackley said at first things fell through when the University of Alaska Land Office selected the property for a title transfer. Then at the end of 2005, Rackley said she was able to get everyone working together again on the project after getting in touch with the University Land Office and being told the University had relinquished their selection of the property on which the historic building sits. At that point, we could do this - transfer the property to the borough - and this school would be taken care of said Rackley.

All this takes time said Rackley. After all these years and hurdles and different managements - here we are. Rackley said she couldn't have accomplished this property transfer without the help of Ketchikan Gateway Borough Planners such as Leslie Real.

jpg Clover Pass School

Clover Pass Community School
photo by Dick Kauffman

Likely one of the last remaining one-room school buildings left in Alaska, all the efforts to preserve the historic integrity of the site finally paid off today as ownership of the property on which the nearly fifty-year building sits was transferred from the federal Bureau of Land Management to the Ketchikan Gateway Borough. The Ketchikan Gateway Borough now owns the 2.16-acre lot. Title to the historic Clover Pass School building is owned by Historic Ketchikan.

The nearly 50 year-old one-room schoolhouse built by Clover Pass community members in 1947 at one time was possibly in danger of being moved or being torn down. It was named to Alaska's Ten Most Endangered Historic Properties in 2004, and to the National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places in 2005. Located on Potter Road in the Knudson Cove area, the building served as a community school until 1961, at which time the students were transferred to schools in Ketchikan. The building has also been used as a polling station, a community center and a library.

Dave Kiffer, Executive Director of Historic Ketchikan, said when Historic Ketchikan first became involved with the project of saving the historic building, the lot was owned by the federal government and the building was owned by the former Pond Reef Volunteer Fire Department. At that time Pond Reef Volunteer Fire Department wanted to build a fire station on the lot but they discovered they didn't own the property. There was a reversionary clause that said if you stopped using the building as a school it went back to the federal government. The former Pond Reef Volunteer Fire Department gave the title to the historic building to Historic Ketchikan.

Kiffer told those present the goal is to get this historic building into usable space again. "First of all we have to fix it up. It's going to cost about one hundred grand probably." Kiffer said the building needs to be jacked up and needs a new foundation, needs paint, lights, and bathrooms. He said, "The old bathrooms are in the woods back there and they aren't in particularly good shape."

jpg interior of the building

Interior of the building.
Photo by Dick Kauffman

"There is no foundation, there is no sewer system, there is no heat." During renovation Kiffer said it's possible the building might be moved back from the road a bit as the front of the building is in the driveway. The building sits in the lower corner of the 2.16-acre lot.

While needed renovations were being discussed, Rackley said she sent a HAZMAT worker in the building back in 2002 to test everything. There is no lead-based paint or asbestos, if so the amount is so minute, said Rackley.

Kiffer said the basic goal is to save this old building. He noted his father helped build the school back in 1947 and all his brothers and sisters attended the Clover Pass School. There are many Ketchikan residents who attended this school and as Ketchikan writer Lousise Brinck Harrington wrote in an article about the school, the school stirs memories of a much simpler life.

"We [Historic Ketchikan] can't afford to have it just sitting here," Kiffer said of the building. After renovation, plans are to rent the space for meetings and community gatherings so the building can support itself.

Asked about possible uses for the 2.16 acres now owned by the Ketchikan Borough, Kiffer suggested ideal uses would be for a community park with a walking trail.

Zaidlicz of the federal Bureau of Land Management said for a prime building to remain as long as the Clover Pass School has is pretty remarkable. "There's good witness to the quality of the construction."



On the Web:

Old Clover Pass School Stirs Memories Of A Much Simpler Life By Louise Brinck Harrington
November 2004

Historic Ketchikan

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