Like most sentimental things people have grown tired of looking at, Arcata’s McKinley statue is likely headed for storage.
Vice-Mayor Brett Watson told the Outpost before yesterday’s City Council meeting that if Measure M fails to pass — as of Wednesday it’s losing 62 percent to 38 percent — the City Planning Commission will present the council with a final Environmental Impact Report, giving them several immediate options for where to put old McKinley once he’s hoisted from his century-old pedestal.
“Hopefully they’re going to make a recommendation by January, [when] it will be ready for the council to review,” Watson said. “Then we’ll remove it and likely put it into storage while discussing what to do with it.”
If the council hasn’t found an ideal local location by the time the statue comes down, which it likely won’t as city officials say there’s no rush to find a new location, then it will be shipped to the city’s marshy corporation yard at the end of G Street.
However, if residents think there’s a better place for the statue to be stored, Arcata City Manager Karen Diemer said now’s the time to contact her office.
“If there’s true interest in a particular location that you think is suitable, contact the City Manager’s Office now,” Diemer said. “We’d like to work with the community.”
The Arcata Veterans Hall has been mentioned numerous times during city council meetings as a possible new location, but the topic has been equally polarizing among local veterans, and the commander of Arcata’s American Legion post, Jeffrey Sterling, says he wants to wait until all the votes are counted before reopening the discussion.
“I don’t want it there, personally,” Sterling said. “Idolizing a statue just doesn’t seem like it goes hand-in-hand with the [Veterans Hall].”
Currently, the only other possible location listed in the Environmental Impact Report is Redwood Park, which Vice-Mayor Watson said is a spot no one would like.
If the council approves the final Environmental Impact Report, there’s also a chance the city could open itself up to lawsuits from Measure M supporters, who may try to keep McKinley in the Plaza by claiming the report is inadequate. However, Watson said he doesn’t expect that to happen.
“It’s always possible, people can sue for anything,” Watson said. “But I would be surprised, because it went to a vote and a vast majority of people I talked to that wanted to keep the the statue said they would acknowledge the vote.”
If and when the statue is removed, the city will also have a few other things to consider. Although the statue should be relatively easy to remove by crane, the council will have to decide what to do with the 25-ton granite slab that will be left over. And while the Environmental Impact Report discusses the removal of the granite as a possibility, it’s unclear how much it would cost the city to remove the stone.
The council will also have to decide what to do about the aesthetics of the statue after someone splashed it with an acid-like substance last month, leaving it looking like it was sneezed on by the statue of liberty.
“The plan is: wait to see what we decide on,” Watson said. “If we decide to keep it here locally, and everything works out, we would spend money to restore the statue. We haven’t waded into it. At this point we’re going to wait to see where we’re going to send it.”