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Willapa Harbor Herald • Town Crier
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Residents compose extensive list of options for Exhibit Hall Building

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Using markers and butcher paper, residents and community leaders make notes of what they would like to see become of the Exhibit Hall Building.

After the Castle Rock Exhibit Hall Society disbanded in May of this year, many of the displays and artifacts in their possession were returned to donors and their families, while the building itself remained city property.

Though the building has been kept opened during weekdays as a place to access tourist information, through the help of multiple volunteers, its future continues to be uncertain as the building is in need of structural repaints and the city remains liable for utilities, phone service and insurance payments.

Acquired by Castle Rock in 1990, the building's only function since then had been as a museum, gathering place and tourist information center, and a number of community members and business leaders have begun meeting to determine where it should go from here.

"What does the community need?" said resident Nancy Chennault, who has been brought on by the city as a consultant in the matter. "The community has this opportunity because they have this space and they have this property. So, let's make the most of it."

Chennault led discussions at the Exhibit Hall Building the morning of Aug. 27 during a meeting of interested residents, the first of several such meetings expected to take place between now and December, with the intent of presenting a viable option to city leaders.

She said the goal at this point is to consider, without limitations of finances or resources, what the building could be used for, stating the group will then narrow their options down from there.

"No idea is a bad idea," she told them. "They're all good ideas at this point."

With markers in hand, residents took to sheets of butcher paper along the walls and began writing their ideas down, which came to represent a wide spectrum of possible uses. Among those who felt the city should restore the building and re-establish a museum was Mike Shannon, who once served on the Exhibit Hall Society's Board of Directors. Shannon said, as a member of the Exhibit Hall Society, he felt connected with and able to serve community members, and wanted the building to be a place where he and others could continue to do so.

But other residents said they felt the community was in greater need of more commercial spaces for businesses looking to move into town, with Glen Paget stating he would favor the city selling the property to a private developer. Paget, who is also chair of the Castle Rock School District Board, shared of businesses who had been looking for places downtown and could not find what they needed, and suggested perhaps the building be demolished to make room for a commercial facility.

Among these two options were other ideas like establishing a children's museum, a food bank, a public park, a town square, a community center able to be rented out for events, and extra facilities for the Senior Center.

Chennault said, after producing so many ideas, community members will next begin looking at the specifics of what would be needed to accomplish their favored alternatives.

"We begin next time fine-tuning whatever our broad-spectrum ideas are and looking at them so we're better able to make a decision based on the facility and financing opportunities," she said.

Chennault added, though concerns remain about the structural challenges facing the building, these are issues better addressed once specific uses are determined, as they will help decide to what extent improvements need to be made.

Though the City Council had previously set aside funding from county lodging tax dollars to repair the building, City Clerk Ryana Covington said, if the eventual use of the building is for a purpose other than to promote tourism, these monies could not longer be used for upgrades.

The next meeting has been scheduled for this coming Wednesday at 7 a.m. and those with questions may call Chennault at (360) 703-8174.

Nancy Chennault (background, center) leads discussions during a meeting Aug. 27 to discuss what will become of the Castle Rock Exhibit Hall Building.

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