Contributed photos / Jennifer Becar, USFS
(Left) One exciting find during the Pacific Northwest Preservation Field School was a historical sign, discovered when Fenn Ranger Station’s current siding was removed during the school’s work. In this photo, PNWPFS Director Shannon Sardell applies a paint sample in what the school determined to be the building’s original color. Forest officials will decide if the building will be painted in this color to reflect the ranger station’s original appearance.
As of Tuesday, October 10, 2017
By Jennifer Becar
Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests
FENN RANGER STATION — Students from the Pacific Northwest Preservation Field School spent four weeks this summer working on projects at Fenn Ranger Station, a building listed in the National Register of Historic Places and the primary office for the Moose Creek Ranger District on the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests.
From August to September, groups of students came for a week at a time to take part in the Pacific Northwest Preservation Field School (PNWPFS), a program administered by the University of Oregon. Now in its 23rd season, the school was developed as an opportunity for interested participants to gain first–hand experience in preservation work and “learn by doing” in a hands–on environment.
Preparations for this summer’s field school began in March, when assessments were completed to determine the building’s current condition, plan the summer’s projects, and develop an operations plan to restore certain aspects of the building. Coordinating with the forest to determine what PNWPFS would pursue, projects were developed to address maintenance needs that would retain the building’s historic character while maintaining it as a functioning district office.
“The goal of these projects is to preserve and use as much of the building’s original materials as possible,” explained Shannon Sardell, Director of PNWPFS and University of Oregon professor. “Actually, the material here at Fenn is in better shape than we expected.”
Fenn Ranger Station is located approximately five miles down Selway River Road 223, which intersects with Highway 12 in Lowell. Approximately 8–12 students took part in each weekly session, which combined hands–on project work with evening lectures. The students camped on–site near the ranger station, ate meals in the cookhouse, and spent their days working in and around the historic building. Each student had the opportunity to earn college credit for participating in PNWPFS.
The students came from a variety of backgrounds–some career contractors, some budding undergraduates, and some simply interested in spending their summer doing something different. Some were local to the Eugene, Ore., area (home base for the University of Oregon), but throughout the summer, students came from out of state and even across the country to participate in PNWPFS. The diverse group was united by a common interest–historic preservation, and the importance of maintaining special places such as Fenn Ranger Station.
This year’s field school proved to be a positive experience for all involved. Students expressed gratitude for the opportunity to gain hands–on experience in the field of historic preservation while seeing a new part of the country. Students left the school with contextual experience for a variety of projects, helpful for those seeking future work in the preservation field. Students also expressed gratitude for being able to experience the beautiful Selway River corridor, as some had never been to Idaho before coming to work at Fenn.
Sardell spoke to the uniqueness of Fenn Ranger Station and the chance to work on such a building.
“This ranger station is in such great condition, very true to its time period. It’s a treat to work on a building like this,” she said.
Staff on the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests were thankful for the students’ hard work all summer.
Moose Creek District Ranger Jenni Blake was very happy to have PNWPFS on board.
“I was already planning projects for them to do next summer!” she said, jokingly disregarding that the school works in a different location every year. “If we ever have another opportunity, I am sure we would gladly welcome them back to work at Fenn.”
Forest Archaeologist Steve Lucas was also grateful for the school’s hard work.
“Myself and others on the forest are very fortunate that we were able to get [PNWPFS] here this summer,” he said. “I’m very impressed with and thankful for all the work these students have done at Fenn.”
For now, the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests heritage program will take over coordination of preservation projects at Fenn Ranger Station, but the school’s involvement hasn’t ended, even though they’ve packed up and headed home. The school will continue to develop reports on the work completed so far, as well as provide recommendations for the future.
For information about PNWPFS, visit http://archenvironment.uoregon.edu/hp/field-schools/pacific-northwest-preservation-field-school.