The Associated Press
KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. (AP) — Japanese-American groups and individuals are questioning plans to build a fence around the Tulelake Airport that would cut through the site of the World War II era Tule Lake internment camp.
A petition from the San Francisco-based Tule Lake Committee says the proposed fence would desecrate the physical and spiritual aspects of the site, The Klamath Falls Herald and News reported.
“This massive fence will prevent Japanese-Americans who, while attempting to mourn their own past, will instead be assaulted with the reminder of rejection, exclusion and emotional pain,” the petition said.
During World War II, an estimated 130,000 Japanese-Americans, two-thirds of them American citizens, were sent to 10 detention centers after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor.
Tule Lake at its peak held about 18,000 people. A small portion of the camp, 44 acres of the original 7,400 acres, is designated as the Tule Lake Unit of the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument. The fence, however, is not within the park boundaries.
The Federal Aviation Administration, at the request of Modoc County, is considering funding a fence around the Tulelake airport. Mitch Crosby, the Modoc County road commissioner who oversees airports, said the 16,000-foot long, 8-foot tall fence has an estimated cost of $360,000.
If built, he said the Tulelake airport would be the last of the three Modoc County airports to have a new fence constructed. A fence at the Cedarville airport was completed in 2008 while a fence was built around the Alturas airport several years earlier.
Crosby said the fence will help the county operate the airport in a safe and serviceable manner.
“I believe we can build a fence that improves the safety of the airport operations while minimizing the impacts to the historical significance of the location,” he said.
Mike Reynolds, superintendent for the Tule Lake Unit and Lava Beds National Monument, said the fence has been an issue at all of the ongoing National Park Service workshops to develop a 15-year management plan for the Tule Lake Unit.
“People feel passionate about it,” Reynolds said, noting the National Park Service cannot legally take a position for or against the fence. “Our goal is to build and maintain a relationship between the local community and the Japanese-American community.” (end)