ASOTIN, Idaho — A long-awaited Maya Lin art project at Chief Timothy Park west of Clarkston could be completed next year.
Colin Fogarty, executive director of the Confluence Project, said work is scheduled to start in the spring. To get the ball rolling, organizers have requested a one-year extension on a shoreline permit approved by Asotin County five years ago.
The permit is set to expire this year, and the Asotin County commissioners plan to take action on an extension next week. Commissioner Jim Fuller was out of town Monday, and Commissioners Brian Shinn and Jim Jeffords said they would wait for him to weigh in before making a decision.
When contacted Monday, Fogarty, who works in Vancouver, Wash., said the Chief Timothy Park installation is moving forward.
"We recently received word that the project has been approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers," Fogarty said. "There is still a lot of paperwork to do. We will definitely be done next spring, with a dedication ceremony sometime in May."
Lin, best known for designing the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., plans to restore a section of the island to native grasses and wildflowers and install a "listening circle" sculpted out of an amphitheater at the top of the island. Project organizers say the shape is inspired by a Nez Perce blessing ceremony performed at the site in 2005.
"Our hope is this will be a valuable community resource," Fogarty said. "It's not just an art installation. It's a venue for community events."
At the commission meeting, two Asotin County residents voiced objections to the Confluence Project site, saying it is not tied to American Indian culture nor will it be an easy place for the public to visit. The people backing Lin's project are trying to rewrite history, they said.
Asotin County Emergency Management Director Butch Aiken said what's billed as a natural amphitheater is actually a man-made pit that was dug by the late Bill Larson. Charlotte Tuttle of Asotin agreed, saying the project is a waste of money and Asotin County should not be involved in any way.
The total cost of project, which began is 2005, is estimated at roughly $1.5 million. Most of the funding has been provided by the state of Washington.
"People have been really patient," Fogarty said. "The regulatory process has taken a long time, but it will be worth the wait. This will be a wonderful place with artistic, cultural and economic benefits to the community."
Four of the six Confluence sites have been completed, including Cape Disappointment in Ilwaco, Wash., Fort Vancouver in Vancouver, Wash., the Sandy River Delta in Troutdale, Ore., and Sacajawea State Park in Pasco. In addition to Chief Timothy Park, a site at Celilo Park near the Dalles, Ore., is in the works with possible completion in 2016.
In other county business, Asotin County officials are still working on a deal with the city of Clarkston to have the city's police chief or his second in command serve as interim sheriff. Ken Bancroft retired last week, and a new sheriff will be appointed to finish out his term, which ends Dec. 31.
Neil Toothaker of Clarkston told the commissioners they've done a lousy job of replacing Bancroft. Capt. Dan Hally, who is second in command at the sheriff's office, should have been appointed, he said, rather than bringing in someone unfamiliar with the operations.
Shinn said he and many others believe appointing Clarkston Police Chief Joel Hastings or Cmdr. Jim Smith will lead to an unbiased platform for the coming election. Hally is running against John Hilderbrand for the job, and neither are interested in filling in for the five months during the campaign.
Jeffords said he wanted to appoint the winner of today's primary election, if the vote was overwhelmingly in favor of one of the candidates. It's a countywide vote, and the chance of the outcome changing in November's general election is "possible but not probable," Jeffords said.
No official decision has been made. Fuller is in discussions with Clarkston Mayor Kathleen Warren about the proposal, and Hally is currently overseeing operations at the sheriff's office.