Group starts cleanup on Confederate markers, says it’s not going away

Pacific Northwest Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans looking at adding security

By Adam Littman, Columbian Staff Writer

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Less than a week after former highway markers honoring Confederate President Jefferson Davis were defaced, members of the organization that maintains the site near Ridgefield have started the cleanup process. They say they have no intention of removing the monuments from Jefferson Davis Park along Interstate 5, but may add security features.

The monuments were splashed with paint and tar sometime Thursday night. A group of Portland activists claimed responsibility.

The monument site sits on private property, so nearby city and county officials can’t take down the markers — or the Confederate flags flying at Jefferson Davis Park — despite requests from some of the neighbors and the public.

Garth McKinney, first lieutenant commander of the Pacific Northwest Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, which maintains the park, wrote in an email to The Columbian that the group is a historical organization meant to honor veterans.

“We are not looking to perpetuate any form of division or bigotry,” he wrote. “The SCV doesn’t share, condone, support or in any way tolerate racial intolerance. We are all equal and we are all Americans.”

McKinney, who is from Yakima, wrote that cleanup efforts started over the weekend, and said there’s still work to do to fully get rid of the “road tar, along with a red rubber-like paint” that was used to deface the stone markers.

He also wrote that the site has seen some vandalism since it was dedicated in 2007. He said the group is looking into unspecified security measures to protect it.

“We have no intentions to remove it no matter what,” McKinney wrote. “We understand that folks may not like the park, or appreciate the symbolism for what it means to us. We, however, in the SCV live to honor everyone that served, sacrificed and died during the Civil War, and that includes all nationalities, ethnic groups and backgrounds.”

The north county site was one of many Confederate monuments around the country thrust into the spotlight after Heather Heyer was killed by a motorist who drove a car into a crowd protesting a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., on Aug. 12.

Since Heyer’s death, cities around the country have removed Confederate monuments. Activists in Durham, N.C., tore down a monument honoring Confederate soldiers.

History of site

The quarter-acre site was dedicated in 2007 on a parcel of land just west of Interstate 5, south of the Gee Creek Rest Area. It contains flagpoles and two stone markers for “Jefferson Davis Highway 99.” One marked the south end of the route in Vancouver; the other was on the north end in Blaine.

In 1913, the United Daughters of the Confederacy launched an effort to designate a route across the South as “The Jefferson Davis Highway,” and later wanted to extend the designation up the West Coast to Canada. Markers were placed at both ends of the highway in Washington.

The markers ended up at current the site about a decade ago after turmoil in Vancouver. One of the markers was dedicated near Covington House in 1939 and remained there until former City Manager Vernon Stoner, at the urging of then-Councilman Jim Moeller, had it removed and placed in storage in May 1998.

In 2002, Rep. Hans Dunshee, D-Snohomish, unaware the marker had been removed, urged that both the Vancouver marker and the one in Blaine be removed. After much discussion, the city council voted to place it at the Clark County Historical Museum. Ownership of the monument reverted to the United Daughters of the Confederacy.

The marker was moved from the museum in 2006 due to a construction project, and the Daughters were asked to find a new home for it. It was moved to the private property in 2007, and a nonprofit, the Jefferson Davis Park, was formed to maintain the site.

McKinney wrote that the group has “received an overwhelming amount of support from community members both living in and outside of the area.”