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Originally published: 2013-12-03 11:45:35
Last modified: 2013-12-04 14:51:34

SAHA seeks repairs, not demolition

by Anna Oakes

Members of the Southern Appalachian Historical Association appeared before the Boone Cultural Resources Advisory Board Monday to ask the town to consider repairing failing structures at the Daniel Boone Park amphitheater instead of demolishing them.

The town owns Daniel Boone Park and for years has leased the facility to SAHA for production of the outdoor drama "Horn in the West." The council last month voted to allocate up to $20,000 for the demolition and disposal of structures deemed to be unsafe by a town building inspector, including the stage left wall, back wall and PIT building.

SAHA members said they believed repairs could be made to the structures for approximately the same amount of money as was allocated for demolition. In addition, SAHA offered to finance electrical repairs needed as a result of unauthorized work by a crew member.

"We do have a structural engineer who will draw and stamp the plans," said Dave Davis, curator of SAHA's Hickory Ridge Living History Museum at Daniel Boone Park.

The Cultural Resources Advisory Board voted to call a special meeting Dec. 16 at 3:30 p.m. to review the structural engineer's recommendations -- if they can be completed by that time.

In a memo to the town and the Cultural Resources Advisory Board, SAHA said the PIT building houses the electrical service for all stage right structures, including lights leading to public restrooms.

In addition, the PIT building is attached to the "Horn in the West" Scene Shop, a structure that houses the drama's scenery close to the stage for smooth scene exchanges during the show, the memo said. "There is no other optional building which would seem to work. We continue to try to make it work, but there seems to be no solution," the memo stated.

"Without the PIT, we're shut down, basically," Davis said.

In October, representatives from The Institute of Outdoor Drama visited Daniel Boone Park to provide consultation services to SAHA. If the town cannot afford to repair the amphitheater before the summer 2014 season, the IOD advised that SAHA should look at other venue options to keep "Horn in the West" running, including a high school football field, indoor auditorium or the Forest Edge Amphitheater in Wilkesboro.

But in the memo, SAHA raised concerns that holding the production at the Wilkesboro amphitheater might not draw enough visitors to maintain revenue.

"Horn in the West" costume designer Alice Neff said the production typically begins making offers to staff in February for the summer season.

"If this gets demolished, I see no way to do the show," Neff said.

Cultural Resources Board member Kim Wangler emphasized that that board members are supportive of "Horn in the West" and would like to see it continue.

"We just need to make it safe," Wangler said.

The board also heard from Boone Planning & Inspections Director Bill Bailey about the process of long-term planning for the Daniel Boone Park facility. The board voted earlier this year to support the redevelopment of Daniel Boone Park but stopped short of endorsing the Marquis Halback Plan.

In 2011 and 2012, consultant Marquis Halback worked with a local steering committee to develop a concept plan for redevelopment of Daniel Boone Park. The plan included three concept maps with varying configurations of Horn in the West Drive, a farmers' market shelter, parking, expanded garden areas and pedestrian facilities.

Board members have expressed concerns that the public might think the concepts presented in the plan would be the final plan to be pursued.

But Bailey said it is common for long-range plans to be regularly evaluated and amended.

"Every year you should be taking a serious look at it," Bailey said.

Board members agreed to study the Marquis Halback plan prior to the January board meeting. The Cultural Resources Advisory Board meets at the Jones House Cultural and Community Center on King Street in downtown Boone.