April 1, 2009
Senator Dianne Feinstein
United States Senate
331 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
Dear Senator Feinstein,
I am writing to you in response to an article published on March 19, 2009, in the Riverside Press-Enterprise, San Bernardino concerning the Mother Road National Monument and proposed renewable solar projects in the southern Mojave Desert.
As the owner of Chambless, Ca, I want express to you my view that these solar projects have the potential to bring new and needed commerce to the area, revenue that will help fund the restoration and preservation of Route 66 historic landmarks.
Twenty years ago, I purchased Chambless, California, located on the corner of old Route 66 and Cadiz Road. When it was built in 1920, the Chambless Station was a quiet, shady oasis in the middle of the Mojave Desert. For nearly 90 years, it provided rest for weary Route 66 travelers. Since purchasing this landmark, I have invested considerable time and resources in maintaining and preserving this historic site. During this time, I have opposed both the Cadiz Land company water project and a proposed Railcycle landfill in the area, because neither project demonstrated what I consider good stewardship of these treasured American lands.
I have come to realize, however, that it is impossible to protect a national monument like Route 66 successfully without broad public support and capital. While the Route 66 public law made small grants available through the National Park Service, the funds barely scratched the surface of what needs to be done to protect these invaluable American treasures.
Over the past two years, I have developed a solid business model that includes restoring all of the Chambless buildings, including the store, restaurant, filling station, cabins, and RV park. Unfortunately, as it stands now, the drive-by traffic alone will not sustain any business model.
While there is a lack of automobile traffic, there is no shortage of commercial transportation. For example, I recently spent two full days working outside in Chambless. Every once in a while, a single car would drive by. In contrast, every five minutes Santa Fe railroad trains roared through the valley, this happens hundreds of times a day. From Chambless, I could easily count the 100 double-stacked rail cars, each about one mile long. Clearly, with this continuous stream of trains traveling through this area, this portion of the desert is far from an isolated, pristine environment.
When I learned that PGE was proposing to build a solar plant (Trilobite 49432) near Chambless, I realized that this has the potential to bring travelers back to Route 66, which is really what this portion of the highway most desperately needs to survive.
Sensible solar projects, such the Trilobite 49432, can have an overwhelmingly positive impact on reviving interest in historical landmarks such as Chambless. Denying the benefits of new commerce to these historic sites will cause them to continue to decay and disappear, taking with them a vitally important piece of our national heritage. This is a conclusion that is shared by many others. Consider this short excerpt from the March, 2009, issue of Smithsonian magazine:
“Most supporters of the preservation of Route 66 agree that the highway needs money, awareness and a national voice that can speak and act on its behalf. The World Monuments Fund named Route 66 to its Watch List of endangered sites in 2008, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation included its motels on a list of ‘America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places’ in 2007.”
The goals of the Route 66 preservationists and the prudent renewable energy interests are compatible. Influx of capital to this area will benefit not only the immediate surroundings but also the entirety of Route 66.
The history of Route 66 represents an important chapter of California and American history. Much more than a highway, Route 66 is an icon for freedom, hope, adventure and new beginnings for citizens across the country and around the world. But it is a man-made site, not a natural one and should be treated as such. The construction of renewable energy facilities is simply the next chapter in an ongoing saga of American innovation, spirit and creativity.
Considering the vast space that Route 66 covers, a project like Trilobite 49432 seems to be a fair and beneficial trade-off to ensure the renovation and preservation of these important national treasures.
I spoke recently with historian Jim Conkle of the Route 66 Alliance about the pros and cons of solar plants being constructed in the Route 66 corridor. By the end of our conversation, we both realized that certain parts of Route 66 will be impacted enough to jumpstart restoration of historical buildings. As a result, Jim Conkle now overwhelmingly supports and endorses my efforts.
Furthermore, I also explained to Eldon Hughes of the Sierra Club that our goals are not mutually exclusive and that it is possible to reach a solution that preserves history and the desert without overlooking the fact that energy needs created by climate change must be our foremost consideration. Ideally, a compromise would include 1) permitting the continuation of existing uses, 2) providing space for solar and other alternative energy projects and 3) encouraging restoration of Route 66 as a historical landmark.
Looking to the future with an alternative energy project while celebrating our history with the rehabilitation of Route 66 could make California a successful model for the rest of the nation. This approach is like other successful “living museums” and historic tourist designations that bring together public and private capital and resources.
With these thoughts in mind, I urge you to reconsider opposition to the proposed renewable energy plants in the Mojave Desert, which would benefit our state not only in counteracting climate change while creating jobs and economic benefits but also by supporting the renovation and preservation of Route 66 – “America’s Mother Road.”
President Barack Obama
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar
Senator Harry Reid
Rep. Jerry Lewis
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
Carl Pope Executive Director Sierra Club
David Myers The Wildlands Conservancy
Eldon Hughes Sierra Club
James Conkle Route 66 Alliance
Jon Jarvis National Park Service
Supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt
P.S. from Jim Conkle:
Chair - Route 66 Alliance
I have known and worked with Gus Lizalde over the last few years on some Route 66 projects. As an owner of property on the road in the Mojave desert he has an invested interest in our Mother Road National Monument project and its impact on his properties future value. In fact his plans will add great value to the future of the road and are key elements in our plans. I believe the renewable energy projects in the Mojave Desert can work hand in hand along with restoration and preservation of Route 66 in conjunction with conservation efforts working together can be a successful relationship.
P O Box 290066
Phelan, CA 92329
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