VANCOUVER, WA -- Following several months of failed negotiations, the National Park Service has asked the Pearson Air Museum to hand over the keys and empty the building in Vancouver.
Staff and volunteers spent all day Tuesday moving planes and other flight artifacts after the notice was hand-delivered.
The museum sits on Pearson Field, the oldest operating airport in the West. The Park Service owns the land and the museum is operated by the Fort Vancouver National Trust.
Museum management said they knew they would have to leave the property eventually, but didn’t think it would happen so soon.
“My reaction was surprise,” said Elson Strahan, a member of the Fort Vancouver National Trust. “I talked to the city manager and he talked to the Park Service and they have stood by their directive. So we really didn’t have any choice but to take the action that we have.”
The community is not only losing a museum, it is losing a community space that hosts more than 100 events each year.
“The museum here is a great community asset and it’s really frustrating with what’s going on right now with the Park Service,” said Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt.
Forty-five organizations were scheduled to host events at the museum, and it’s unclear whether these groups will get their deposits back, have to find a new venue or hold the events in the vacant building.
KGW was not able to reach the National Park Service for comment on Tuesday.
Documents KGW received indicate the government was willing to let museum management transition out of the space over the next 45 days, but museum staff said they weren’t taking any chances, and will hand over the keys Wednesday.