Herrera Beutler seeks updates on Pearson Air Museum

Park Service, Vancouver, trust in mediation talks over fate of facility

By Sue Vorenberg, Columbian features reporter

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As the mediation process continues, there's not much anybody can say about the fate of the embattled Pearson Air Museum.

Still, Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler said she'd like to be more in the loop.

Herrera Beutler sent a letter Wednesday noting that she hadn't had an update in two months to John Jarvis, director of the National Park Service; Elson Strahan, president and CEO of the Fort Vancouver National Trust; and Eric Holmes, city manager for the city of Vancouver.

The mediation process over management of the museum began seven months ago.

"Please know that the local citizens have not forgotten about this issue," she wrote. "More than 6,940 residents in our region have petitioned my office to see Pearson Air Museum returned to the fully operational state it was in before the dispute began. They deserve to know what progress you have made toward this end."

The museum switched management on Feb. 6 as conflicts came to a head between the National Park Service, which owns the land and building, and the Fort Vancouver National Trust, which controls or owns most of the historic airplanes and exhibits used in the museum before the takeover.

The site had been set up to run as a collaborative endeavor between the Park Service, the city and the trust through 2025. That partnership broke down over the past few years mainly because of disputes over events policy at the museum.

Herrera Beutler introduced legislation, HR 716, in March to move control of the museum and surrounding 7 acres from the Park Service to the city and the trust. She put that bill on hold when the parties entered mediation.

Strahan said because of the legalities involved, there's not much any of the parties can say.

"We are in the process of mediation, and that process is moving forward," Strahan said. "Unfortunately, there's not much more I can say."

But even if the parties can't say much, the Congresswoman still wants some sort of update each month, her staff member, Drew Griffin, said.

"Jaime understands the need to keep certain details confidential at this point," Griffin said. "She still expects to receive regular updates that the talks are proceeding."