At risk? (Cultural Landscape Foundation)

The Cultural Landscape Foundation, which is dedicated to the preservation of beautiful and historically significant landscapes, has come out with its yearly crop of at-risk places and the people fighting to protect them. On the list: McMillan Sand Filtration Site, where activist Tony Norman has been fighting development for decades. Says the entry:

The site, which has been closed to the public since World War II, has deteriorated severely since operations ceased in 1987 despite more than 20 years of meetings and citizen proposals. The threat of development has intensified in the last few years as the City’s economic development office has selected a private development team and begun discussions on a potential large public subsidy for private development. Currently Mr. Norman and Committee members are engaging in pro bono consultations with engineers, preservation and environmental experts, legal experts and planners for advice on mitigating the negative effects of the proposed development and exposing the nontransparent collaboration of the District of Columbia government with the private development team. The Committee is exploring repurposing this public land and alternative stewardship arrangements such as a conservancy, public/private partnerships, or transfer of development rights.

From the perspective of keeping historically significant places just as they are—-even if they’ve long since ceased to be productive—-sure, new residences, retail, and office buildings would constitute a threat. But redevelopment that brings more people to the area who can more easily appreciate a large section of the plant that will be preserved, without requiring them to either jump a fence or schedule private tours, would seem to be more respectful of the site’s history.

Also worth noting: Besides Portland’s Ladd’s Addition, a planned residential neighborhood that’s threatened by Dutch Elm Disease rather than nefarious private developers, McMillan is the only site on the list that’s in the middle of a big city. The others are in small towns or rural areas, where development perhaps doesn’t make as much sense. It’s the Cultural Landscape Foundation’s right to fret about any place it sees as valuable, but context is important.