WAARNG balances cultural resource preservation and the mission
By Rita Hess (USAEC Contractor)April 4, 2019
The Washington Army National Guard (WAARNG) statewide installation is considered small, comprised of 240-acre Camp Murray plus 36 additional facilities to support up to 6,200 soldiers. Its cultural resources management (CRM) program staff is also small; just two environmental specialists, with support and oversight from the environmental programs manager.For the past two years, the installation's CRM program focused on managing 12 historic armories and storage buildings scattered statewide, as well as 14 historic buildings and features located in two historic districts: Redmond and Camp Murray. Despite its size, the program received a 2019 Secretary of the Army environmental award for cultural resources management at a small installation."One key to success was creating new maintenance and treatment plans, or MTPs, to streamline operations and proactively resolve historic building renovation and maintenance concerns," said Dr. Rowena Valencia-Gica, WAARNG EPM. "These documents help safeguard cultural resources when modernizing WAARNG structures, essentially balancing preservation with mission."MTPs allowed successful completion of critical projects like roof repair, window and door replacement, Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) access provisions, and other upgrades. An effort to develop MTPs included four structures at Camp Murray eligible for National Register of Historic Places listing.It addressed formal historic building conditions reports and comprehensive technical resource materials that help guide construction and facilities management office (CFMO) staff. It also helped facilitate a roof remodel and walls/windows replacement at Camp Murray, as well as preservation of a historic horse trough.In FY18, the CRM program contracted MTPs for Longview and Centralia armories.At the Centralia Armory, which sits on a hill overlooking the city of Centralia, local history and military presence collided. During construction, the CRM program learned the armory also sits on a historic landmark tied to the city's founding -- a Baptist seminary that was one of the first schools in the area. Additionally, Centralia is the only city in Washington founded by an African-American.The seminary later became a hospital and was razed prior to armory construction. But when the armory parking lot construction began in 2017, historic artifacts were unearthed, including three Native American lithic fragments.Balancing WAARNG's operations with the cultural value of the find presented a challenge, but the MTP allowed the CRM program to respond proactively and quickly.Initial consultation with the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) and close coordination with the State Historic Preservation Office helped staff resolve preservation concerns, maintain WAARNG's impeccable compliance record, and keep construction on track.CRM program staff included the CFMO staff when developing MTPs, capably demonstrating how modernization and preservation need not be at odds. They also emphasized new training and awareness protocols for soldiers and contractors on the installationNotably, the person responsible for the Centralia discovery was not the contractor but a uniformed soldier, emphasizing the need for all personnel to understand CRM practices. Indeed, the program will soon begin training all WAARNG contractors to assure better understanding of a particular site's needs.The CRM program updated the inadvertent discovery procedures for inclusion in the revised Integrated Cultural Resources Management Plan and updated training site protocols as a mitigation response to the events at Centralia Armory.The CRM staff is also incorporating environmental guidance into deployment plans, new employee orientation briefings, and pertinent building managers trainings. Further, they continually update GIS maps about installation buildings, including aerial imagery, to help guide the WAARNG's decision-making.The CRM program staff consults with federally recognized tribes about proposed actions and ongoing projects, including some associated with two installations WAARNG trains on, but does not oversee or own. Also, the staff develops posters, signage, and brochures to teach others about cultural resources statewide.Establishing MTPs for historic structures is keeping WAARNG's modernization plans on track. Hundreds of artifacts now preserve valuable information for future researchers at Centralia.Several groups interested in the discovery worked extensively with WAARNG, which elevated public interest. The inadvertent discovery at the Centralia Armory provided the opportunity for WAARNG CRM program staff to instill cultural awareness within the overall community and strengthened our relationship with local groups.