Revisiting argument to save Discovery Park chapel

This response addresses the confusion of my original statement to Seattle's Preservation Board ('Park chapel nominated for landmark status'; Nov. 10, Magnolia News).

To my knowledge, Bob Kildall was not in the room when I presented it to the board. Some who were present have asked me to send you a copy of the statement so that the record could be set straight. The following is my original testimony in its entirety:

It is just as difficult for me to think about Discovery Park without the chapel as it is for me to consider it without the great blue heron or the bald eagles flying overhead; or perhaps the tide going in and out, allowing for acres of sand upon which children and adults can run and walk from the beach in front of Perkins Lane north to Lawtonwood.

If such a chapel was located near the East Coast of the United States on 534 acres of pristine meadow, forest and beach, the question of the continuation of its existence would not even be asked. It would automatically be considered part of the landscape and a historical entity. Citizens might even deem themselves lucky and/or fortunate that they were being given the opportunity to protect it.

The architectural structure of the building is without distinction. But maybe that works in its favor. The chapel is on park land which is owned by all. Just outside of Boston, on Walden Pond, is Henry David Thoreau's famous cabin, from which he wrote his essays of transcendentalist literature. The cabin's design is completely without architectural distinction, but it is as much a part of the landscape as the pond and the theories about which Thoreau wrote.

The Chapel on the Hill in Discovery Park allows writers and thinkers a respite for contemplation and reflection. Maybe the same holds true for sailors and boaters since the spire of the chapel, silhouetted against the sky, can be seen from (the waters of) Puget Sound.

If there were no chapel, I would hope that some kind of commemorative structure would be erected to provide inspirational recognition on the hill for this great piece of City Wilderness. Since the building already exists, however, let us not make the mistake of tearing it down - for what reason I do not know, although the rationale claims that up-keep is too expensive and it does not fit in with the definition of the original Kiley plan for the park.

With all due respect, after 35 years of ineffectiveness - sewage treatment plant expanded, Nike site still standing, Daybreak Star to be quadrupled in size, a 160,000 square foot new reserve - the Kiley plan needs to be re-visited and a new plan with some environmental "teeth" needs to be put in its place.

The expense issue could be covered by event rentals: weddings, baptisms, memorial services and holiday observances. These events would not be limited to Christian denominations, but would include all faiths and religions.

But most of all, give me something to say to visiting veterans of World War II, the Korean War, and Viet Nam. I volunteer at the desk of the Discovery Park Visitor Center on Sundays. During the busy summer months, when tourism is at its height, their questions and comments range from, "Is any part of the hospital still here?" to "Are there any barracks still standing? to "I was shipped out of here in 1942."

A sample of the type of comment that pulls at the heartstrings, however, is: "I returned from Viet Nam in 1969 and married my wife in the chapel."

Should there not be some sensibility in refusing to destroy a modest piece of memorabilia that these veterans seem to so graciously appreciate? As it stands, it remains a spiritual reminder to dedication and commitment of body and soul. The Discovery Park Chapel has a history of chaplaincy service and outreach to veterans and their families. It could also have a future of service as a reminder to park visitors that humility and stewardship are important ingredients in keeping alive the spirit of environment and open spaces, for offspring eternal.

Judy Raymer is a Magnolia resident.[[In-content Ad]]