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Options Looked At For New City Park
March 1, 2001

Richmond leaders wonder how other properties will enhance the historic experience 

By Shawn Masten

RICHMOND -- As the National Park Service awaits word on a much-needed state grant that could spur development of a visitors center at the former Ford plant, city officials are mulling the roles related public properties will play in Richmond's new historical park. 

The state Coastal Conservancy is slated to consider next month a grant of $575,000 for the Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front National Historical Park. 

The grant would help to pay for the planning and development of the center and for interpretive signs along the nearby Bay Trail, park superintendent Judy Hart told the City Council this week. 

Grant funding is needed so that the visitor center design and Bay Trail improvements can begin immediately, Hart said. 

Richmond's project is among about 70 being recommended for funding from the 2000 state park bond act, said Mary Small, project manager for the conservancy. 

About $244,000 has been committed by the park service to develop a park management plan and to pay for other park development expenses, Hart said. 

Additional national park funds won't be available until October 2002, she added. 

"Without the grant, it would mean that improvements to implement the park would have to come from another source or wouldn't happen until later," said Councilman Tom Butt, a member of the Rosie the Riveter Trust board. "We need all the money help we can get both now and in the future to get this thing done." 

The $6.2 million project is being developed through a partnership between the park service and the Richmond Redevelopment Agency. 

Kaiser Permanente also has contributed $35,000, which could be used to fund a permanent staff position or grant writer for the project, officials said. 

City leaders said they need to start thinking about how the 14 other public and private properties included within the park boundary will be used to enhance the experiences of history buffs and others who come to Richmond seeking a taste of the World War II homefront effort, Hart said. 

"It's really up to the city to decide how much is beyond the visitors center," Hart said. 

The park ought to encompass the North Richmond blues and jazz clubs and downtown movie houses that were popular during the war, Mayor Rosemary Corbin said. 

"There are some possibilities that add an entertainment dimension to this era," Corbin said. "I think it is growing and becoming more rich in terms of the story that needs to be told." 

The park could be a bigger draw if more than just the visitors center and memorial are there, Councilwoman Irma Anderson said. 

The federal government created the park on Richmond's waterfront to honor the importance of domestic production during the war when Richmond was a national industrial center, producing 747 victory ships at the Kaiser shipyards alone. 

The Rosie the Riveter Memorial, the first public monument to the wartime labor of millions of American women during World War II, was the impetus for the national park designation. The 441-foot-long memorial is at Marina Bay, once a Kaiser shipyard. 

The park would complement five waterfront parks linked by the Bay Trail and anchored by the memorial and visitors center. 

The center would be in the Ford plant as part of its planned $105 million renovation by a developer. 

The plant is on the Bay Trail between Marina Bay and the former Kaiser Shipyard No. 3, the only yard still intact. 

The yard is part of a collection of other wartime structures still standing in Richmond, including the former Kaiser field hospital on Cutting Boulevard, two wartime day-care centers and the Atchison Village housing project, where the shipyard workers lived. 

The task facing the city is to find a way to make these sites places where visitors could learn about the social and economic changes that resulted from the war while retaining their business purposes, Butt said. 

Kaiser Shipyard No 3 is under lease to several private companies for ship demolition, repair and storage and generates about $1.2 million in revenue annually for the city.