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Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Wawona End Game May Be Near

The City of Seattle has again threatened to evict the historic 1897 schooner Wawona from her berth at South Lake Union Park. And it has also threatened to confiscate the vessel and break her up, possibly saving some pieces for historic interpretation. That's according to people familiar with a meeting last week between the board of Northwest Seaport, which owns Wawona, and key city officials, including Parks Superintendent Ken Bounds and Deputy Mayor Tim Ceis.

The new ultimatum was a disappointment to NWS volunteers, who had hoped the city would help pay for a move of the vessel to a protected area so that restoration work could continue. NWS recently released a report by a panel of national experts that called for a similar strategy. NWS had already started to implement other recommendations, including removing Wawona's masts.

Last week, the city told NWS it has no money for a move. Instead, Ceis and Bounds, according to a participant in the discussions, said the city would start eviction proceedings if NWS did not come up with the money to move her. If the vessel was not moved, the officials said the city would start proceedings to forcefully remove her, "taking charge" of the ship and breaking her up for display. The city offered to help NWS pay for breaking up Wawona. It's not clear how much a break up might cost and how much the city would kick in.

The latest eviction threat is the second made by the city in the past year. In 2005, Bounds sent an eviction notice to NWS, asking the not-for-profit to move the vessel by December. The deadline came and went with no action while the expert panel met to consider alternatives.

NWS board member Wayne Palsson says NWS is looking at further options. They hope to present some ideas to the city in the next couple of weeks. But he admits NWS is rapidly running out of time. "Wawona is in her 11th hour, and it's getting close to midnight," he says.

If you'd like to express your views or ideas about Wawona, contact Deputy Mayor Tim Ceis at 206-684-8106, ceis@seattle.gov; Parks Superintendent Ken Bounds, 206-684-8022, bounds@seattle.gov; and Wayne Palsson, 206-447-9800, seaport@oz.net.

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