Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Oro Valley Historical Society: Steam Pump Ranch Use Has Strayed Far From Its Intended Use

Drive-in movies and town office space were not intended Steam Pump Ranch uses
There is a controversy regarding the use of Steam Pump Ranch ("SPR") that the Oro Valley Historic Preservation Commission ("HPC) failed to discuss at monday night's commission meeting. The controversy relates the fact that town's use of SPR has strayed from its original intent as an historic facility; and the fact that the Oro Valley Historical Society ("OVHS") has been left out of the loop when it comes to making these decision.  

SPR was to be maintained as an historic site
SPR is an historic site and the OVHS wants to keep it that way. Pima County issued a bond in 2004 to purchase the property.  "Consensus developed to focus on Steam Pump Ranch as a heritage education center for residents and visitors to the Town of Oro Valley that would tell the stories of the two ranching families and the role of Steam Pump Ranch in the development of the region."  

Facility use has strayed far from that.  Most certainly a drive-in movie theatre and conversion of SPR structures for Parks and Recreation office space are of no historic consequence. (Unless, of course, stage coach passengers stopping for water at SPR were treated to a "movie" when they passed through in 1900.)

OVHS: Emphasis shifted from heritage and preservation to commerce
In a letter to Mayor and council of October 2, the OVHS notes: "it seems that the emphasis has shifted from heritage education and preservation of the buildings to a “commerce center”. We have recently seen a drive-in movie theater, El Toro, take root near the Pusch House Museum. In our opinion, it detracts from the historic nature of the site. There seems to be a greater emphasis on community activities and private money making functions (i.e. wine festivals, concerts, weddings) at SPR and less emphasis on local history and historical related events.

Oro Valley Historic Preservation Commission ignores the problem
The commission spent approximately 5 minutes discussing the historical society letter last night. The focus was on making sure that no member of the commission directly criticized any member of town staff. Commissioner Steve Hannestad voiced his concern on the matters raised in the letter. No one from the OVHS spoke when he said they might want to elaborate on their concern as no hands were raised,  No other commissioner voiced a moment's thought. The meeting was then shortly adjourned.

Hello, HPC, is anyone home?
We listened to the meeting. HPC members did not engage in any meaningful conversation about any topic. They spent a whopping 58 minutes together. Most of this was consumed by a staff presentation on SPR budget priorities of 2022. Council stamped their approval of that with very little discussion. It does make one wonder: What is the purpose of the HPC?
Note: The HPC and the OVHS are two separate organizations. HPC is a town run commission that provides guidance to the towns Parks and Recreation Department. The OVHS is a private organization whose mission " to promote research, preservation, education and dissemination of history related to the Greater Oro Valley area."