Jessica Cejnar Andrews / Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2023 @ 12:49 p.m. / Community, Local Government

Crescent City Council Authorizes Tsunami Memorial Repair Ahead Of 60th Anniversary, Discusses Fountain's Future

Crescent City commissioned the Tsunami Memorial Fountain in 1965, a year after 11 residents lost their lives during the Good Friday tidal wave. | screenshot

With the 60th anniversary looming, Crescent City councilors authorized staff to spend $5,000 to repair a memorial fountain honoring the victims of the 1964 tsunami.

Those dollars were already budgeted for and would pay to weld the bronze sculpture created by artist Bruno Groth back onto the concrete foundation by March 27, 2024. But councilors decided input from the community was needed before they spent more money on revamping something that Mayor Pro Tem Blake Inscore said had been neglected for years.

“If this is a memorial, would you be alright if the headstone on grandma’s grave was knocked over and nobody bothered to pick it up? ‘Cause that’s sort of what we’ve done with this,” Inscore said Monday. “I didn’t make it a priority item to bring it to the Council to say, ‘Let’s get this done,’ until the thing was knocked off its stand. And here it is, four years later, and it’s been sitting on a pallet.”

Crescent City commissioned the Tsunami Memorial Fountain in 1965 to honor the memory of the 11 lives lost on March 27, 1964. Jets sprayed water on the bronze monument and water cascaded into a perimeter drain over a concrete basin. In the mid-1970s, the city removed the perimeter drain and water recirculated within the pond of the fountain itself.

Over the years, city staff removed the lights and capped the fountain heads so that it stopped functioning. In 2019, the sculpture broke off due to vandalism and has been stored at the city’s corporation yard, Public Works Director David Yeager said.

During a budget workshop earlier this year, the City Council asked staff to come back with future options for them to consider. Those options included restoring the fountain to its “old glory,” Yeager said, preserving the art and moving the fountain to another location as well as repurposing the plaza, known as Tsunami Landing, itself.

According to Yeager, in the city’s Community Economic Development Strategic Action Plan developed in 2021, the community decided on four options for the plaza itself, which included installing a playground and turning the space into a gathering area.

The fountain was not in any of those scenarios, he said.

“If we want to put the fountain up, we’ve got to weld (the sculpture) back in place,” Yeager said. “We can install spray heads, we can get the electrical on the pump working again and we can get the water going.”

Yeager said the fountain could be rebuilt to allow for people to sit on it. He also displayed a workup by Harley Munger, of Piece by Piece Pottery, showing a tile mosaic design that would be similar to the mural in Beachfront Park honoring Kamome as well as the other tile mosaics around the community. According to Yeager, Munger’s design would consist of up to 60 tile mosaic panels.

“But obviously there’s expense to all of it,” Yeager said.

Restoring the fountain, which includes fixing the plumbing and the electrical water pump so it functions as a fountain, would cost about $12,000, Yeager said.

Restoring the fountain and upgrading the concrete, which is currently weathered and irregular, would cost about $39,000, Yeager said. He showed City Councilors pictures of concrete form liners in different patterns.

Restoring the fountain, upgrading the concrete and adding Munger’s tile design would cost about $49,000, according to Yeager.

Yeager said his cost estimates didn’t include the $5,000 in Crescent City’s budget to reattach the sculpture. It also didn’t include the possibility of moving the memorial to another area of the city or take into consideration the community’s long-term vision for Tsunami Landing.

“The important thing is maintaining the memorial because that’s the respect we’re showing to the people that lost their lives,” he said.

Yeager also pointed out that the fountain and the plaza are part of Downtown Crescent City’s Tsunami Walking Tour.

The City Council said they were in favor of restoring the fountain, but asked where the money would come from. Councilor Jason Greenough, pointing out that revenue from hotel bed taxes and sales taxes take a hit due to the Smith River Complex wildfires over the summer, asked Finance Director Linda Leaver to weigh in.

According to Leaver, when the City Council adopted the 2023-24 budget in June, staff estimated that there would be about $107,000 in unallocated general fund reserves. Currently, Leaver said, she estimated an unallocated balance of $350,000 in the general fund, though those numbers haven’t been finalized yet.

City Manager Eric Wier said those budget figures don’t include any potential impacts to the city from the wildfires.

“Those numbers are just not in yet,” Wier said. “We’ll have those in about a month or so with final numbers not being available for the next couple of months. We’re above where we thought we were going to be on June 30.”

Both Greenough and Mayor Isaiah Wright said they envisioned the Tsunami Memorial Fountain to be relocated closer to Beachfront Park. Greenough pointed out that Crescent City has grant money to upgrade the facade at the Cultural Center.

“Maybe that’s a potential location for this,” he said. “The veterans memorial is down the way. Maybe this could be the front piece to the walk up to the Cultural Center. I know this is not something that we’ve talked about, but I think it would be beautiful to have a fountain in front of the Cultural Center.”

Councilor Kelly Schellong, who was concerned about lighting and vandalism, said she wouldn’t want to see the fountain in a new location. She remembers pitching pennies, dimes and nickels into the fountain as a little kid and said her parents would not let her sit on the fountain.

“I’ve always felt the fountain plaza was so under-utilized and could be a vibrant part of our downtown and I felt like the fountain could be the center of it,” she said.

Piece by Piece Pottery founders Jill and Harley Munger pointed out that any tile mosaic included in the fountain would not be finished by the tsunami’s 60th anniversary in March. Harley Munger estimated it would take about two years at least to do the tile at the fountain.

Jill Munger said she remembers the fountain being a center of activity in 1979 when she was a newcomer to Crescent City.

“We had a wonderful paint store right there and a lot going on,” she said. “The kids liked to play on it, but I kind of like the idea of the Cultural Center.”

Though he agreed that sentimentality isn’t something to dismiss, Inscore urged his colleagues to get more public input before deciding to spend $49,000 on the fountain. People probably their own memories about the fountain. Asking for their opinion could cause them to “re-appreciate” what the memorial means, he said.

Inscore said the community may even decide that the Cultural Center or Beachfront Park is a better home for the memorial. Authorizing staff to move forward with the $5,000 sculpture repair and gauging public input on the fountain’s future is the “best of both worlds,” he said.

“One, it’s in place to honor on the anniversary and secondly it bides us time to do some public engagement and look at some options,” he said. “Sentimental reasons, that’s part of why we do public engagement is to let the community come back and talk about this.”


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