Back To The Future
by Michael Stearns
It’s hard to believe how far we’ve come. Ten years ago, the Mid Klamath Watershed Council (MKWC) moved from a dilapidated Forest Service trailer with holes in the floor to an old grocery store in downtown Orleans. With only a few staff members, we suddenly had almost 5,000 square feet of interior space, including tons of old grocery junk, a rusted hulk of a house trailer and an ancient, chronically leaking generator contaminating our soils.
Excitement about the possibilities was contagious (and terrifying) and many people lent a hand to clean up the old messes and begin a new era for the Panamnik Building. Humboldt County’s Headwaters Fund and the Humboldt Area Foundation were very supportive of our efforts. MKWC was eventually able to purchase the building in 2010. It could never have happened without the support of our local community members who attended countless fundraising events, and continue to do so.
MKWC immediately began to make all the extra space available to the local community. With an emphasis on positive events open to everyone, we continue building up community programs. The Panamnik Building is regularly used for everything from yoga, exercise and Kung Fu classes to natural resource and wildfire meetings as well as preschool playgroups.
After cleaning up the messes inside and outside the building, with the help of the Somes Bar Arts Council, MKWC began to develop its property behind the Panamnik Building along the Klamath River. Our outdoor amphitheater area project and a safe kid friendly area to gather are in progress. Construction of an outdoor stage and a fabric band shell will complete the amphitheater project.
By providing a place for community events along the Klamath, MKWC hopes to provide a spark of revitalization in Orleans. MKWC has tried to clean up from past land uses and is endeavoring to set an example for responsible land use and increasing community vitality. As an organization we have much to contribute and high hopes for the future, but as the saying goes, it takes a village.
In my opinion, change begins with each individual. Only through personal accountability and being a good citizen, can positive change happen for the entire community. Like John Muir said, “Everything is hitched together”.
As the Panamnik Building moves into the future, MKWC plans to continue developing partnerships with other organizations and the community at large. We plan to use the development of the Panamnik Building as a testing ground for creative community uses and ideas. We all have dreams of rainwater catchment and solar panels, but also more grounded goals of a new roof and insulation. Our building survived the 1964 flood, but is now in need of some serious upgrades. How we plan, dream and scheme to make positive changes for our community building program is largely a matter of how high our hopes are and the will to make it happen.
MKWC is hosting the monthly Third Thursday café August 20 at 6 p.m. as a fundraiser for the Panamnik Building Project. The menu features grilled tri-tip steak, stuffed peppers (ground tofu and veggies), summer pasta with pesto and zucchini, and cucumber gazpacho. Non-alcoholic blackberry sangria and blackberry sangria with vodka, as well as beer and wine options, will be available at the bar. There will also be a dessert auction.
Events like this one are possible because so many kind local people show up and pitch in. Please come share in our dreams, schemes and plans!
As MKWC's Panamnik Building Director, Michael Stearns oversees building operations, improvements, and the greater campaign to convert an old grocery store into a thriving community center and a model for green living and working in the heart of downtown Orleans.