Teens start petition for air museum

Siblings plan to send it to congressional delegation, hope facility will reopen

By Sue Vorenberg, Columbian features reporter

Published:

 

If you go

What: Save Pearson Air Museum protest.

When: 2 p.m. Saturday.

Where: 1115 E. Fifth St.

Information:Save Pearson Air Museum, on Facebook.

Petition:Signatures and comments.

Kjer and Kaya Galbraith said they were shocked at news that Pearson Air Museum closed this week — so shocked that the two teens, ages 16 and 14, respectively, decided to do something about it.

The kids, who have volunteered at the museum for the past three years, put together a petition that they plan to send to Washington's congressional delegation with hopes that it can be used to help reopen the facility, they said.

"We're just collecting signatures right now, and we're going to see where it goes," Kjer said. "There is a lot of love for this museum."

As a volunteer, Kjer ran the flight simulation room for the museum and has met a lot of other teens during his time there, he said.

"We had lots of school groups coming through," he said. "It was a valuable learning opportunity."

Kjer and Kaya, who are home-schooled, said they feel a tremendous loss in the museum's closure.

"It's like a second home and you have a second family," Kaya said. "Everyone is really nice."

The museum shut down Wednesday as conflicts came to a head between the National Park Service, which owns the land and building, and the Fort Vancouver National Trust, which has operated the museum for the city of Vancouver for several years.

The service and the trust had differing notions on how the museum should be managed.

The service wanted the museum and event scheduling to be under the control of the superintendent of the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, with a strong focus on history. The trust wanted to continue to run it as a community and educational site.

On Sunday, the National Park Service officially gave the museum 45 days to transition to new management. But the Park Service also told Pearson staff it wanted the keys and security codes by Wednesday.

So the trust, which either owns or has secured loans for all the planes and exhibits inside the museum, decided to move the contents to new locations rather than risk handing private property over to the Park Service.

The museum is essentially empty, its fate uncertain.

But the kids and a strong community effort that supports the trust say they're not giving up on seeing it reopen.

"I don't want to see it go," Kaya said. "I think by signing the petition, people will understand that we can't let the museum go."

Inga Galbraith, their mother, said the petition was entirely Kjer and Kaya's idea.

"They came up and said they wanted to help and wanted to make a petition," she said. "I told them to research it, and they did it."

Kaya printed out copies and has convinced a handful of local businesses to display them and collect signatures. She said about 60 people had signed them. She hopes to distribute copies to more businesses over the weekend.

Kjer put a version of the petition online and had collected 61 signatures by Friday evening.

The brother and sister said they hope to get at least 200 signatures and that they'll mail copies of everything to Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, both D-Wash., Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Camas, and "maybe the president and vice president, too," Kjer said.

"It's a valuable asset to the community, and we're sad to see it closed," Kjer added.

Sue Vorenberg: 360-735-4457; http://twitter.com/col_suevo;sue.vorenberg@columbian.com.