Staff photo/Greg Sellentin

Barn deconstruction restarts

It’s back in the saddle again for the San Juan County Fairgrounds horse barn deconstruction.

“It’s great that we can continue to work on the project as deadlines are coming near,” said Fairground and Events Manager Jennifer Allen.

On April 17, Dana Kinsey of Orcas confirmed she withdrew her appeal to stop the barn deconstruction, three days before the appeal’s hearing was scheduled.

“Due to the unbearable pressure that the 4-H horse program, the fair and all funding would be lost, and the grant timeline was so tight, I regretfully withdrew my appeal,” wrote Kinsey in an email to the Journal.

The deconstruction was set to start in March, but Kinsey and others protested against it at a county council meeting. Kinsey said the deconstruction plan did not include enough information, like conceptualized drawings of the finished project, so she filed the appeal.

According to the staff report to the hearing examiner, Kinsey, a leader in 4-H horse programs, claimed the project did not follow an environmental checklist and the demolition didn’t meet the Washington State Department of Agriculture and Fairs parameters.

Yet, the staff report stated the agriculture building was exempt from the State Environmental Policy Act and criteria for the project’s WSDA grant did not apply to demolition permits from the San Juan County Community Development department.

The appeal was filed on March 22, but was not paid for until past the deadline, a day later. For these reasons and others, county staff recommended the appeal be denied before it was ultimately withdrawn.

Bidding for a contractor to level the ground near the barn to install mobile horse stalls has begun, said Allen. That grading, as well as utilities installation, stall purchases and barn deconstruction have to be complete by June 30 for the parks and fair department to be reimbursed by the grant.

Opponents of the project, like Kinsey, requested that part of the original 1924 barn remain. Parks and Fair staff, citizens’ requests, the Town of Friday Harbor Historic Preservation Coordinator Sandy Strehlou, and an island architectural historian Boyd Pratt will help determine which section remains. Kinsey said she would like to see the entire northern section of the barn saved.

Pratt examined the barn during a county survey of historic barns in 2009 for Historic Barns of the San Juan Islands. Of the more than 200 barns surveyed since then, 15 are listed on the state’s register of historic places. Kinsey said the barn has been “deemed eligible for both the National Register of Historic Places and Washington Heritage Barn Register due to its age.”

Kinsey and others will seek community support to maintain the remaining section of the barn, as well as how to memorialize it.

“These past several weeks have shown that many islanders care about the historical feel of the fairgrounds,” said Alyson Clark Stephens, who also opposed the planned deconstruction. “I would urge anyone who cares about the future of the fairgrounds to get involved.”

To help with future plans, contact Alyson Clark Stephens at 298-2990 or alysonclarkstephens@gmail.com.