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Group forms to help save Mukai farmhouse, garden

As the fate of the Mukai farmhouse remains unsure, a small group of Islanders is taking steps to see that the historic farmhouse, barreling plant and Japanese garden are restored and used for their original purpose.

A half dozen Islanders formed the Mukai Farm & Garden Association earlier this year, prompted to take action after a meeting in November 2009, when the historic farmhouse went up for sale.

Glenda Pearson, the association’s vice president, said its members have been interested in seeing the deteriorating property restored for years. However, they didn’t have the opportunity to take action until this year, when a real estate agent began actively trying to sell the farmhouse and when the property went into tax-foreclosure.

Pearson said the new association is urging those who have been involved with or interested in the Mukai farmhouse to write to the state Attorney General, asking that he comply with a request by 4Culture, King County’s cultural arts organization, to dissolve Island Landmarks and transfer the parcel to another organization.

“We’re there to try and bring the Vashon community into play and to help whoever takes it on permanently or temporarily and reignite the property. … It’s still salvageable,” she said.

Duane Dietz, president of the new association, said the organization has also worked to find a buyer for the farmhouse but has made little progress in the search, as most organizations that would be equipped to hold the property or support another group’s ownership will not consider it under its current ownership.

Island Landmarks, which owns the farmhouse, is run by former Islander Mary Matthews and her husband J. Nelson Happy. The two own the adjacent barreling plant in their own names.

Several groups, Dietz said, are “interested in helping, but not as long as Mary (Matthews) is involved.”

Dietz said the association plans to apply for nonprofit status. While it doesn’t have the money required to take on the property, the group, Dietz said, could obtain grants to facilitate restoration once the property has new owners.

Whatever happens, Dietz hopes the newly formed organization can garner enough support to represent the Island’s interest in preserving the piece of local history.

“If there was one person complaining, it wouldn’t happen,” he said. “But as soon as you get a group together, you’ve got the weight of the community behind it.”

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