CPANP Letterhead

February 19, 2021

 

Mr. Jeremy Sweat
Regional Chief of Planning and Compliance
National Park Service
12795 W. Alameda Parkway

Lakewood, CO 80228

Dear Mr. Sweat:

On behalf of the 1,800 members of the Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks (Coalition), a non-profit organization composed of retired, former, or current employees of the National Park Service (NPS), I am writing to provide the Coalition’s comments in support of the Amache Special Resource Study (SRS) and the designation of the Amache site as a new unit of the National Park System.

Coalition members collectively represent over 40,000 years of experience managing and protecting America’s most precious and important natural and historic resources.  Coalition members include a full array of retired park leaders and professionals, including those with experience designating and managing parks and programs associated with the forced evacuation and incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II.

We thank NPS for the opportunity to provide comments to support the SRS of the former Amache War Relocation Authority site located near the town of Granada in Prowers County, Colorado.  We also appreciate NPS’s commitment, spanning over 20 years, to work with the Japanese American community, the Amache Preservation Society, the Amache Historic Society, and other partners to help the public better understand the Japanese American experience at Amache including

      • Designation of the site as a National Historic Landmark (NHL) in 2006, following NPS’s recommendation in the Japanese Americans in World War II Theme Study.
      • NPS matching grants through the Japanese American Confinement Sites (JACS) program to restore a barracks building and recreational hall, rebuild a guard tower and water tower, and provide interpretive resources including kiosks, signage, a three-dimensional tour, movies, a virtual field trip, and oral histories.
      • Archeological research by the NPS’s Western Archeological and Conservation Center, published in Confinement and Ethnicity; An Overview of World War II Japanese American Relocation Sites (2000).

In addition to the NPS’s work to tell the Amache story, we are proud of the NPS’s ongoing commitment to tell the tragic story of the unjust incarceration of over 110,000 Japanese Americans through existing units of the National Park System and the JACS Grant Program.  NPS is helping to tell the story of racial prejudice, the violation of civil liberties, and the failure of our democratic institutions during World War II.  Building on this work is especially important today as our nation seeks to better understand racial prejudice and to advance racial healing.

In terms of the criteria for new park units, we respectfully submit the following comments:

1. National Significance.   In its National Historic Landmark (NHL) application, the NPS determined that Amache is an “exemplary site of national significance.” We agree with this conclusion.

2. Suitability.  Because of its unique history, we believe that Amache meets the suitability test.  Amache represents a cultural resource that is not already adequately represented in the National Park System.  While NPS manages units that tell portions of the incarceration story, the Amache site has unique features and interpretive themes that are not represented by the existing NPS sites:

Support for the Japanese American community.   Amache was the only camp located in a state whose Governor welcomed the Japanese American community.  In Colorado, Governor Ralph Carr welcomed the evacuees and advocated for just treatment.  He was joined by local community organizations including the Colorado Council of Churches, the Denver Council of Churches, and the Colorado Council of Church Women of the Rocky Mountain Region.

• Site integrity.  The NPS NHL application notes that Amache has a very high level of integrity compared to other camps.  The Amache site features an intact “road system and the unusually intact foundations of barracks and communal latrine/laundry buildings and mess halls that clearly illustrate the historic layout of the center’s evacuee housing area, particularly in comparison with the other relocation centers. Barracks at the other centers were supported only by rows of small concrete block piers, but at Amache solid concrete perimeter foundations or continuous concrete slabs were required because of dampness.”  The fact that park visitors can see the layout of the entire camp is in contrast to other sites.

• Silk Screen Shop. The Densho Encyclopedia highlights a unique aspect of the camp: “Although many of the WRA camps had war-related industries, Amache was the only camp with a successful silkscreen shop. At the time, silk-screening was one of the best ways to crisply print in color, something required by the U.S. Navy for their training materials. Established in June of 1943, the Amache silkscreen shop produced over 250,000 color posters under a contract with the navy. The staff of forty-five also created many prints for use in camp, including calendars, programs for camp events, even souvenirs for the yearly carnival. The Amache silkscreen shop produced a colorful and visually distinctive record of life at the camp.”

• Proximity to a local community.  Unlike other camp sites, which were in very remote areas, the Amache site was located near a town, Granada, which enabled Japanese Americans and local community members to interact in positive ways.  As noted by the Densho Encyclopedia, “[t]he proximity of Amache to the town of Granada created a situation unique among the WRA camps. Inmates were close enough to Granada that walking into town to shop or even just visit a soda fountain was a common occurrence. The positive effect this had on camp morale was noted by the WRA.  Although some regional businesses were anti-Japanese, most came to see the Amacheans as valuable customers.” 1https://encyclopedia.densho.org/Amache_(Granada)/ In addition, members of the local community would visit Amache to shop.  Japanese Americans in camp “formed a consumer’s cooperative, which included a clothing store, a variety store, shoe store, shoe repair shop, dry cleaner’s, barber shop, beauty parlor, canteen, watch repair shop, and optometry supply store. The cooperative served people both inside and outside the camp, becoming one of the most popular shopping areas in southern Colorado. Nonresidents from the surrounding community could shop or trade at the co-op on weekends.” 2https://coloradoencyclopedia.org/article/granada-war-relocation-center-amache

• Opportunity to tell the story of post-camp life.  The Amache story has several unique elements related to life after camp.  Because Executive Order 9066’s exclusion zone did not include Colorado, Denver had a population of Japanese Americans during World War II.   After Amache was closed, many Japanese Americans in Amache decided to resettle in Denver as part of this community.  This unique resettlement pattern will provide NPS with an opportunity to tell this important story.

In addition, none of the current sites managed by the NPS include guidance in the Presidential proclamations or authorizing legislation to tell the stories of the difficult transition to life after camp.  In recent years, scholars and researchers have documented additional resettlement stories.  If the site is designated as a new park unit, interpreting the resettlement in Denver and other areas can be a park purpose.

• Geographic Location.  All of the NPS-managed camps are located west of the Rocky Mountains.  If added to the National Park System, Amache would be the first NPS site located east of the Rockies.  Unlike the other camps, it is located relatively close to major cities (within a four-hour drive of the Denver metropolitan area and a three-hour drive from Colorado Springs).  Designating the site would increase opportunities for education and interpretation to residents of Colorado, one of the fastest growing states in the country.  Designating the site would also complement NPS’s goals at the Sand Creek and Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Sites, and the Santa Fe National Historic Trail, and promote heritage tourism that will generate economic benefits to local communities.  Because of the proximity to Denver, there are unique opportunities for camp survivors and their descendants to help NPS interpret the site.

3. Feasibility.  We believe that the site can feasibly be managed at a reasonable cost.  The Town of Granada owns the site, which consists of less than one square mile.  Also, NPS has land management capacity in southeast Colorado through its High Plains Group that currently manages the Sand Creek and Bent’s Old Fort sites, which are located within 50 miles of the Amache site.  As noted above, NPS has made significant investments in Amache through the JACS grant program.

4. Requirement for NPS management.  We believe that NPS management is clearly superior to other management approaches.  Following the designation of Manzanar in 1992, NPS has developed significant experience interpreting this important and complex chapter in our history.  No other federal, state or local agency has experience managing Japanese American camp sites.  The Amache Preservation Society, the Amache Historical Society, the University of Denver, and other non-profit partners have done excellent work to preserve, manage, interpret and conduct research at the site.  While these organizations can partner with NPS, they currently do not have the ability to serve as the long-term site manager.

As we approach the 250th anniversary of America’s founding and the 150th anniversary of Colorado’s statehood in 2026, the Coalition supports adding the Amache site to the National Park System to complement the current NPS camps and the JACS grant program to provide the American public with opportunities to better understand and appreciate one of the most difficult chapters in our nation’s diverse history.  Thank you for considering our views.

Sincerely,

Phil Francis Signature

 

 

 

Phil Francis
Chair, Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks