Island Landmarks is working hard to make Mukai farmhouse viable

Who in the world is Glenda Pearson? And Holly Taylor? And a Mr. Meeks? And why are they commenting in the newspaper about the Mukai Farm and Garden?

I do not know these individuals; I have never met them; they have never been involved in the effort to preserve the Mukai Farm and Garden; they have not donated a minute of their time, and they have not given one red cent towards the property’s upkeep. Frankly, I am amazed that they feel qualified to comment on the subject.

For the past nine years, a small group of determined individuals has kept this project going in the hope that someday, somehow, either a corporate sponsor, a large, well-established historic preservation organization or a government entity such as the National Park Service would step up to the plate and help accomplish the mission. The mission of Island Landmarks, regarding the Mukai Farm and Garden, has always been the same: to operate the site for the public as an educational and historic facility.

The past events of Island Landmarks, while educational, are not what is important to the task at hand: This property should be saved as a public institution. Washington State Parks, the Wing Luke Museum or the National Park Service should take over the house, the garden and the fruit barrelling plant. 4Culture’s plan to “seize” control of the property, which cost $300,000 when it was purchased in 1999-2000, with public funds — and “sell” it to the Puget Sound Zen Center for $87,000 with no public process — is a prime example of our government’s bungling, bullying and arrogant interference with grass-roots efforts.

The Zen Center’s plan includes having a family live in the house and building “cottages” inside Kuni’s garden boundaries, in the back — which is a wetland. The house cannot sustain a modern family without extensive and destructive remodelling, which would destroy its architectural significance as a Japanese/American design synthesis. But it’s a wonderful museum.

If the new organization being formed can demonstrate that they have the professional experience necessary to restore and operate a world-class historic site; if they can prove that they have at least $45,000 a year to pay for the property’s basic upkeep then add on another $75,000 for staff, publicity and programs — then the present board of Island Landmarks would be happy to talk with them about transferring the property over. Until this happens, Island Landmarks is going to just keep on paying the bills and looking for corporate sponsors or the perfect organizational fit.

— Mary J. Matthews is president of Island Landmarks

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