The following letter was delivered to the Town of Oro Valley Mayor and Councilmembers (others as noted) on May 26, 2020. (Formatting may be slightly different from the original letter but content has not changed.)
It explains our position regarding the change from the 2015 Master Plan for Steam Pump Ranch with regard to the Garage Building. We feel obligated to inform our membership what has transpired.
We invite you to read further.
The Honorable Mayor and Councilmembers Town of Oro Valley
11000 N. La Canada Drive
Oro Valley, AZ 85737
Dear Mayor and Councilmembers,
It is with concern and dismay that we write this letter. On May 19, we learned via the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board (PRAB) Zoom Meeting that there is a plan for the restoration of the Garage Building at Steam Pump Ranch (SPR) and that it will be used as offices for the Recreation and Cultural Division. This came as a shock to the Oro Valley Historical Society (OVHS) Board members especially since just a year ago, a “Steam Pump Ranch Garage Building Needs Assessment” was completed for the purpose of making the Garage a permanent home for the Society (as indicated in the revised Steam Pump Ranch Master Plan 2015). We had not been contacted by anyone from Parks and Recreation (including our liaison, Ms. Lynanne Dellerman-Silverthorn) that a decision had been made to repurpose the space. A courtesy call, at the very least, would have been appropriate prior to the PRAB meeting.
The Parks and Rec shift in focus to Steam Pump Ranch is understandable due to the results of its recent survey. All along OVHS knew the importance of SPR to the community. One of our purposes was to promote activities and events that would keep its historic significance evident to the community. Now with the survey results, it seems Parks and Rec has renewed its focus on SPR. While this is certainly a good thing, OVHS hopes that SPR will not become just a center for community events and lose its historical importance. Parks and Rec’s decision to take over the Garage to the detriment of OVHS leaves us uneasy about our connection to SPR. The non-transparent manner in which the decision was effected concerns us even more.
For Councilmembers who may not know the history of the relationship between the Town of Oro Valley/Parks and Recreation and the Oro Valley Historical Society, the following is a brief synopsis.
Jim Kriegh, founding father of Oro Valley, Pat Spoerl, PhD., and Dick Eggerding established the OVHS in 2005 in an effort to preserve Oro Valley history and landmarks. They were concerned that significant history would be lost to development. A “Memorandum of Understanding By and Between the Town of Oro Valley and the Oro Valley Historical Society” was signed in 2006 establishing a framework for the partnership. Jim and the OVHS were instrumental in advocating for the purchase of Steam Pump Ranch in 2006/2007 with a mind to establish a permanent home for OVHS as well as preserve the property. In 2009 with the help of the OVHS, Steam Pump Ranch was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In addition to our “Memorandum of Understanding”, we have a License Agreement with the Town of Oro Valley. The first agreement was signed in 2009. The 18 point agreement was last signed on February 5, 2018. This revised license allows us to schedule tours, events, and plant in the Heritage Garden among other things.
In 2008 Poster Frost Mirto Associates created the original Master Plan for Steam Pump Ranch with input from the OVHS, the Town and its residents. The Master Plan described the offices in the Proctor-Leiber House intended for use by the Town and OVHS or a “Friends of Steam Pump Ranch” type group. The revised plan of 2015 changed the traffic circulation, the use of the Proctor-Leiber House and moved the OVHS to the Garage as indicated on the Building Legend/Restoration of Historic Precinct A4: Garage: In Partnership with Oro Valley Historical Society, Offices, Gallery, Restrooms and Storage. Town funding never materialized for the restoration of the ranch due to the economic downturn in 2008. The Pusch House is currently the only restored building on the property. Cosmetic landscaping, stabilization of some buildings and staging for events have occurred but the majority of the Master Plan has never been executed.
On May 19, 2019 a presentation was given to the OVHS detailing the results of the Capital Needs Assessment done by Poster Frost Mirto. The study included restoration plans and costs for the Garage Building. The OVHS contributed $5000 to the Town to help fund the assessment. This was to help in the effort toward the restoration and to make it our permanent home.
Since that time, we attempted on numerous occasions to establish an agreement for occupancy for the intended Garage Building. We were told that an agreement would not be forthcoming until we were able to prove we had the funding for the project. That was a “Catch 22” as it would be difficult to, in good faith, seek donors to raise the $450,000 without knowing if we would have a short or long term occupancy lease for the building. We were also told that we would not be able to use “The Ranch” in fundraising promotions unless those funds were used specifically for the restoration, but again, without an occupancy agreement, we could not proceed with “serious” fundraising. Incidentally, we have been trying for the last several years to get a Certificate of Occupancy for the Pusch House (to allow us to use one of the rooms as an office) and to date we still do not have one. There has only been an oral agreement that we may use the space.
We hope you can appreciate the affront we feel, as a “partner,” when we were not given any notice of the change in plans for the Garage. It was only after we contacted our liaison, Lynanne, after seeing the presentation to the PRAB, that a phone response came from Matt Jankowski. Without much explanation as to the change in plans for the Garage, we were told
that we could use the Pusch House (but again, we are waiting for the Occupancy Permit). The Pusch House lends itself as a museum, not an office. It is the facility where the OVHS exhibits its collections and displays and is the only building open to the public on the Ranch. Though we have come before Council on several occasions asking for budgeted money for security and fire suppression in the house, that has not yet happened. As such, we are unable to exhibit significant items in our collections. Last year the Pusch House had a break-in and we don’t feel it meets the necessary requirements to keep our collections safe on a permanent basis. Some of the repairs from the break-in still need to be completed.
Certainly, through time and changes of administrations, boards and staff, some of the partnership commitments may have waned or may have become misconstrued. The one thing that hasn’t changed is the mission of OVHS. We still seek to promote research, preservation, education and dissemination of history related to the Oro Valley area. We are a self-sustaining all volunteer organization and receive no money from the Town of Oro Valley or Pima County. We run on a very small budget dependent on membership fees, donations and fundraising. Much of our business community feels their obligation to the town has been fulfilled by the public art requirement and thus, it is difficult to get positive response from them. We do the best we can with what we have. And we have done a lot. On the attached Exhibit A, we’ve listed some of our ongoing projects, events, and activities as well as contributions to SPR and Parks and Rec.
The most important partnerships in life aren’t always based on a formal written agreement. They are based on trust. We strongly feel that the partnership we have with the Town (specifically Parks and Recreation) has been breached. The lack of communication and end run on the Garage Building Needs Assessment are inexcusable and not the stuff of successful partnerships. To say the least, we now have a serious lack of trust as to our position with the Town and Parks and Recreation.
We ask that the Town Council explain the decision for the Garage Building repurposing. We further ask that the Town and Parks and Recreation at least be honest about their intentions regarding our “partnership”. If this is something you would like to dissolve, at least be respectful and courteous enough to tell us so.
We will be happy to arrange a meeting to further discuss the issue and determine how we move forward. We would appreciate a prompt answer as we will likely have questions regarding the money budgeted for the Garage restoration at the upcoming Town meetings. Please contact President Roxy Johnson at email@example.com.
Roxana M. Johnson, President
Henry K. Zipf, Acting Vice President Paul Loomis, Treasurer Teresa Colmar, Secretary
cc: Chairman of HPC, Chairman of PRAB, Town Manager, Parks and Recreation Director
Contributions of the Oro Valley Historical Society
to the Community and Town of Oro Valley/ Parks and Recreation Dept.
The following reflects highlights of recent OVHS activities and contributions with regard to our partnership with the TOV and Parks and Rec.
Community Volunteerism: Dedicated members of OVHS act as docents/tour guides, fundraisers, researchers, archivists and administrators. They include; descendants of George Pusch, descendants of early homesteaders, two published historians, a PhD. in Archeology, a renowned meteorite collector, two former mayors of the Town of Oro Valley, a local artist and many others who share their expertise, knowledge and passion for local history.
Exhibits at Pusch House Museum
All of the exhibits/displays are funded by OVHS and its donors. OVHS provides the docents in the Pusch House on Saturdays (when it is open) and for First Friday Concerts. We appreciate the TOV providing staff for cleaning and occasional set-up.
- Sept: Ranching exhibit
- Oct: Francisco Romero exhibit (this event brought in many of his descendantswho were in town for a reunion)
- Nov/Dec: Pusch Family German Heritage Holiday exhibit
- Jan: Unveiling of Pusch Family Crest reproduction (painted by Gail Munden), andexhibit/presentation on OV homesteader, Catherine Reidy (Roxy’s mother).
- Feb: Letters to Home, WWII letters from Henry G. Zipf to Gertrude Pusch Zipf.Items from the collection were donated to OVHS by Henry K. Zipf, current Board member.
- March – Current: No displays due to Covid shut down.
- Pusch House may be open for special events and private showings byappointment. OVHS will provide the docents if given sufficient notice.
- This year we’ve seen a marked increase in visitors to the Pusch House Museum. On several occasions we’ve had 300+ visitors during Saturday openings.
The partnership between Parks and Rec and OVHS has been most successful in the Heritage Garden. We especially commend Board member, Joyce Rychener and TOV Ranch Manager, Joel Woppert and Katie Bubnekovich for their efforts. An increase in volunteer/staff activity has helped tremendously. Archaeology Southwest and input from Mission Gardens has also been a valuable asset.
- Demonstrations and presentations to local schools, home school groups, and tour groups
- Published research conducted in the garden with regard to early planting methods
- Heirloom plantings providing a unique ecological habitat for native wildlife and pollinators
- Historic planting methods and ancient seeds complement the Tucson Gastronomic UNESCO designation
- A donation solicited by Joyce on behalf of OVHS funded equipment and plantings to solidify the longevity of the garden.
Community Events and Activities
All of the following events are funded by OVHS and its donors.
- AZ Archivist Bazaar at AZ History Museum: Participated and promoted OVHS and the TOV at this yearly event.
- History Hikes: New in 2019/2020. Hikes led by published historian, Jim Williams, to historical sites in Oro Valley. Hikes scheduled in the spring were cancelled due to Covid restrictions.
- Christkindlmarket: Included German entertainment, sale of holiday ware, tastings of German food, children’s activities in the Heritage Garden and Pusch House. This event tied into an exhibit at the Pusch House featuring the Pusch family and German Heritage.
- Library Displays: Monthly displays at the Oro Valley Public library coinciding with exhibits at the Pusch House.
- Speakers Bureau: Speakers presentations of local history topics. Presentations are monthly during the winter at the OV Public Library.
- Information Booth at Farmer’s Market: Valuable exposure of SPR to the community. We direct visitors to the Pusch House Museum and provide background on the SPR property. We coordinate with TOV employees (and thank them, especially Joel and Katie) for helping set-up the tent and other amenities. This is a valuable introduction point for many residents to SPR, the OVHS and TOV activities.
- Participation in the TOV planned activities in October.
- Z Mansion Event (2018): Produced funding for Map Signage at SPR. To date the sign has not been installed. It took 1 1⁄2 years to come to an agreement with TOV/Parks and Rec as to the design, materials, etc. On May 21 we determined with Lynanne where the sign will be installed at SPR when it is completed.
- Christkindlmarket booth (2019): In conjunction with the November/December exhibit at Pusch House featuring German heritage holiday celebrations, we set up a German style Christkindlmarket booth selling ornaments and holiday decorative items. Proceeds will fund OVHS continuing programs and exhibits.
- “Priceless Antiques Event” (2020): An “Antiques Roadshow” appraisal event featuring a local antiques expert. Literally, this took place the day before the Covid shut down. It has not been determined how proceeds will be dedicated until we resume meetings. Thank you to Mayor Winfield and Councilmember Jones-Ivey for their attendance.
- Grant submissions to AZ Historical Society: In the past we were able to receive small scale funding from this state organization. We were unable to submit a grant this year as we did not meet the requirements for the number of hours the Pusch House Museum was open. We requested Parks and Rec to consider additional hours so we could meet the requirement. It was agreed that Pusch House will be open the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th (when occurring) Saturdays of the month from September through May. In June, July, and August it will be open on Second Saturdays to coincide with Farmer’s Market hours.
- Ongoing fundraising: Jim Click Raffle, Fry’s Rewards Program for Non-for-Profits, sale of merchandise at our Farmer’s Market booth, online donations, collected donations from tours at the Pusch House. These fundraising efforts help with our operating and exhibit costs.
- We provide information on OVHS and TOV events, activities, news and historical articles via our Facebook page and website.
- Emails to our membership inform them of TOV and OVHS activities.
- We include links to the TOV website and list their events on our website calendar. The TOV has similarly publicized various OVHS events at the Community Center, on the TOV website and Vista publication.
- The Town has also permitted us to place signage in public places in accordance with TOV rules for posting.
- OVHS submits reports to the HPC Commission and interacts with the HPC liaison.
Miscellaneous Projects with TOV/Parks & Rec
- Zipf family donated to OVHS and then installed three bedrock mortars in the Heritage Garden
- Participated in adobe workshop to restore walls at Steam Pump Ranch
- Inventoried Bunk House artifacts for the TOV
- Presented a display at the HPC Conference at the Hilton El Conquistador (2017) and gave tours of SPR to conference attendees
- OVHS volunteers have assisted in STEAM summer camp programs
- Prepared Heritage posters for SPR grounds and buildings