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Preserving Tuolumne County heritage


It’s not often that the county can do one, let alone two, historic preservation projects in the heart of Gold Rush Sonora.

But those options are available to the board of supervisors at their Dec. 19 meeting when they discuss returning the flagpole to historic Courthouse Square.

Unfortunately, county staff is recommending that a modern fiberglass pole be placed in the park’s center circle, a major departure from the park’s original authentic design.

The supervisors’ counsel in these matters, the Historic Preservation Review Commission, tends to favor an approach based on historic precedent: recreating the original wooden flagpole, replacing it

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It’s not often that the county can do one, let alone two, historic preservation projects in the heart of Gold Rush Sonora.

But those options are available to the board of supervisors at their Dec. 19 meeting when they discuss returning the flagpole to historic Courthouse Square.

Unfortunately, county staff is recommending that a modern fiberglass pole be placed in the park’s center circle, a major departure from the park’s original authentic design.

The supervisors’ counsel in these matters, the Historic Preservation Review Commission, tends to favor an approach based on historic precedent: recreating the original wooden flagpole, replacing it where it originally stood and landscaping the circle as they appeared when the park was dedicated in 1936.

Ironically, it was a supervisor (Frank Ralph) who designed this leafy green oasis and insisted on the lavish use of Columbia marble for walkways.

The Tuolumne Heritage Committee is firmly behind an authentic approach to this situation, especially since our park is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

This honor roll of America’s most precious historic sites recognizes the value of maintaining their original appearance. That’s what gives them their significance and community value and sentiment.

Recreating the old flagpole and landscaping the circle are consistent with the county’s architectural and cultural resources.

In fact, in 2008 the county was honored for just that with a Preserve America community designation. This honor came in the form of a certificate signed by First Lady Laura Bush. It hangs on a wall near the supervisors’ offices and they’ve walked past it many times.

The county earned its prestigious Preserve American honorarium in recognition of just what the flagpole and landscaping projects advocated by the Tuolumne Heritage Committee represent: honoring and preserving cultural resources, especially in a county that is so rich in reminders of the past.

Examples the supervisors have set as precedents include creating the Historic Preservation Review Commission, adding a Cultural Resources Element to our General Plan, designating May as Historic Preservation Month in Tuolumne County, preparing written documentation of our historic communities and building a state-of-the-art archive facility where the county’s written records are preserved for all time.

In the flagpole project we have outlined, the Tuolumne Heritage Committee sees an unparalleled opportunity for the county to return some authentic details lost in the recent park remodeling.

The flagpole could likely be made at the Sierra Conservation center which recently helped the City of Sonora by constructing a new house for Santa Claus’ annual yuletide visit.

And while they’re at it, why not use a sturdy, but bug-ravaged Ponderosa pine? In addition to flying Old Glory, it would commemorate the swift and effective action supervisors took in addressing the huge tree mortality problem in Tuolumne County.

To its credit, the city managed to save and store a 15-20-foot section of the pole from the base up. A local citizen salvaged the worn, but still intact globe that sat atop the pole for four generations.

Thus, the exact measurements are available and the county could work with the center and the city to return some obviously missing history to Courthouse Square.

It just doesn’t get any better than that!

Sharon Marovich is the chair of Tuolumne Heritage Committee