By Pat Grubb
Given that the community center on Gulf Road has been the nexus of Point Roberts life for 41 years, it’s no surprise that the old brick building occupies a tender part in many residents’ hearts. And now that the library will shortly move out of the place it has called home since its establishment in 1946, how the vacated space will be used is a matter of concern for some of those people.
Both the historical society and the food bank have asked the park district board of commissioners to allow them to use the soon to be freed space for their respective organizations. The historical society has called dibs on the space currently occupied by the library while the food bank has asked to use a portion of the meeting room directly behind the library.
The food bank would use its space to consolidate food storage; currently, the group stores its supplies at the Shell station, the International Marketplace and the community center. It currently occupies about 400 square feet of the center and would like to increase that another 50 percent to around 600 square feet.
The historical society, on the other hand, would use its space for displaying historical artifacts with the exception of the alcove currently used for the children’s library. The society would like to enclose that space and use it to store its archives.
Those storage plans have at least one community member saying, wait a minute. Former park commissioner Mark Robbins prefaced his remarks to the park board at its January 8 meeting by saying he was a strong proponent of the food bank and the historical society but would like to express his opinion about the utilization of the old library space.
Referring to a long-time park district commissioner, Robbins said, “I guess I have inherited Irene Water’s feelings about the park district. I think the community center is kind of sacred – I don’t want to see its structure altered, I wouldn’t like to see its architecture altered.”
Continuing on, Robbins said neither room should be used for storage purposes. “That front space is really valuable; I don’t think it’s the best use of that space if the historical society is only going to store its stuff there and have self-guided tours. I think that having a museum in the community center is a really good idea that benefits the community.
“If it comes down to giving that space to the society, they should take on some commitment to having a museum that has docents at least one day a week, perhaps one or two days a week during the summer … if they do get that space, the historical society needs to step up to the plate and do more than just lock up a bunch of artifacts,” he concluded.
In response, commissioner Stephen Falk said, “I was concerned about their presentation last month when they talked about taking over that space and I support that whole-heartedly but I was very disappointed when the historical society was suggesting to use it for essentially just a larger version than what they’ve got here.”
Commissioner Arthur Reber related a conversation he had recently with a museum professional who had stressed the importance of simple yet informative signage and display lighting. Chair Linda Hughes suggested the park district could consider partnering with the historical society on improvements such as lighting.
Robbins suggested that containers could be located at the Baker Field parking lot on Benson Road for food bank use. He concluded by suggesting that the district finish any needed seismic upgrades to the building before accepting new tenants for the available space.