Pierce County sets rules for work to resume on Tanglewood Island

Staff writerApril 23, 2014 

Two months after ordering demolition work to stop at the Tanglewood Island lodge, a Pierce County building official has determined tearing down the structure would not have a negative impact on the environment.

But before the county will issue permits for demolition to resume at the site of the former boys camp, the lodge’s owners must meet some requirements.

First, they must hire a professional archaeologist to survey the site, which is visible from the Fox Island bridge and the western shore of the Gig Harbor Peninsula. The archaeologist must produce a report for review by the state Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation and by four area tribes: Nisqually, Puyallup, Squaxin and Muckleshoot.

If the state agency and the tribes ask for it, a professional archaeologist must also be on site to monitor the remaining demolition. Property owners also must allow tribal representatives on site during the work, according to the county’s conditions.

The tribes and the state agency were given special consideration because of Tanglewood Island’s history as a Native American burial site. State law also requires property owners to secure a permit from the state historical preservation agency before excavating, removing or altering Native American human remains or archaeological resources.

Brandon Reynon, tribal archaeologist and cultural regulatory specialist with the Puyallup Tribe, sent a letter to the county in February asking for the archaeological assessment and monitoring.

“It was common practice at the time this building was constructed (1940s), to disregard tribal remains by removing them or building on top of them,” Reynon wrote.

The tribe wants to make sure any additional remains or artifacts uncovered during the demolition are protected, said John Weymer, spokesman for the tribe.

“Brandon will be on site. If anything is discovered, we can preserve it,” he said.

Gretchen Kaehler, local governments’ archaeologist with the state historical preservation agency, detailed the state’s concerns in a letter to the county.

The state historical preservation agency was disappointed with the demolition because of the building’s historical significance. Built as part of the Ta-ha-do-Wa Camps for Boys that operated on the island from 1946 to the early 1970s, the building was the showpiece of the camp.

Later, after the island was sold and divided into private lots, the 14,000-square-foot circular lodge remained an iconic image on the island’s northernmost corner.

The building likely would have been eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places, Kaehler said.

“This opinion is based upon the buildings’ long presence at the tip of Tanglewood Island at least since mid-20th century, its association with Pierce County’s recreation heritage, plus its iconic and commanding presence over South Puget Sound waters,” she wrote to the county.

The News Tribune first reported on the unauthorized demolition of the lodge in late January. The county viewed the demolition as a blatant disregard of its rules.

County building official Rick Hopkins declined to say this week how much the property owners will have to pay to resume demolition and whether penalties would be assessed.

But county policy requires those who do demolition work without permits to pay a so-called “investigation fee,” which is double the normal permit fee.

Members of the Tanglewood Homeowners Association, the building’s owner, have not responded to The News Tribune’s requests for comment.

In its application for demolition approval, the association said it has no plans to remove the bulkhead, concrete slab or lighthouse on site.

Brynn Grimley: 253-597-8467 brynn.grimley@ thenewstribune.com

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