The Saratoga Sun -

Mending the lookouts

 

Erik Gantt

The fire lookout tower on Kennaday Peak has been largely boarded up and has fallen into disrepair.

Editors note: this is the first in a two-part series on the restoration of historic fire lookouts in general and the fire lookout tower at Kennaday Peak in particular.

In recognition of the 50th anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act the US Forest Service (USFS) started a program called 16 by 16.

Through the program, 16 historic fire lookouts will be renovated and stabilized by 2016.

The lookout on top of Kennaday Peak is one of the towers selected for the project. The USFS and its Passport in Time (PIT) program have teamed with HistoriCorps to rehabilitate the lookout.

Items on the list to be fixed include reglazing and replacing windows as necessary, cleaning, sanding and painting the entire building, replacing the roof, repairing doors, refinishing the interior floor, and refurbishing the outhouse.

The Icons

"The lookout symbol is so iconic to our agency that when the Forest Service Honor Guard was developing a coin to give thanks to folks that have contributed to the agency or families of the fallen the lookout was chosen for one side of the coin," Fullman said, adding "every time that we lose a lookout I think just a little part of us in our industry dies, it's just a tragedy."

Volunteer Pat Lynch grew up in Oregon visiting lookouts with his brothers and said he now thinks of the structures as iconic. "Lookouts are the guardians of the country," Lynch said.

The Volunteers

Carol and Bill Schluckebier came up from Texas and said they were enjoying their first PIT project together. Carol has never volunteered with PIT, but this is Bill's fifth PIT project. The popularity of the PIT projects has meant that the couple hasn't been accepted to one until now. He is a retired engineer who worked with 3M developing reflective fabrics and she is an educator who currently teaches through the University of Pheonix. The couple said they like the PIT program because "they get to meet people with similar interests that they wouldn't run into otherwise."

Retired Navy officer Stephen Waylett from Northern Idaho has worked on more than 100 PIT projects, but he had never worked on a lookout before. Volunteering for PIT has led to travel across the country and working at Kennaday Peak was his fifth week of PIT projects this summer. Waylett compared the community that participates in PIT projects to the ladies in Virginia that saved Mount Vernon for having the vision to preserve historic sites.

Pat Lynch is a part-time Valley resident who is an advocate of fire lookout towers. He is a long-time member of the Forest Fire Lookout Association (FFLA) and was a USFS District Ranger in Encampment in the mid-1970s. With his advocacy for fire lookout preservation, he said he couldn't imagine not helping with the Kennaday Peak lookout.

Lynch has his hands in two lookout projects in the area as he will be restoring the Osborne fire finder from the Slash Ridge tower that is now at the Grand Encampment Museum.

The PIT volunteers all expressed their dedication and Fullman said, "The thing I like best about working with volunteers is not just the free labor, but there is a sense of connectedness. Between us and also between them and the facility, this will have their DNA in it."

Next week PIT and HistoriCorps will be discussed in more detail, as will the future of the Kennaday Peak fire lookout.

 

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