Senator Gardner Tours Camp Amache, Offers Support with NPS Project

Camp Amache Main Entrance

The National Park Service is considering taking steps to manage Camp Amache in Granada. U.S. Senator, Cory Gardner, visited the site and the Amache Museum in Granada Monday, August 21st to get a better understanding of the scope of the Camp and the private efforts that have allowed the site and the museum to be developed and maintained.  Gardner serves on the Sub-Committee for Public Lands, Forests and Mining, so he is the ‘go-to’ representative in Washington, DC to help aid development of the project.  “I want to do anything and everything I can to help,” the Senator told the gathering at the museum, adding, “This is who we are and we need to preserve this historical site.”

U.S. Senator Cory Gardner

Following a tour of the 640 acre site due west of Granada, the Senator and several staff members were given a tour of the museum, which according to John Hopper, museum curator, houses the largest private collection of Camp Amache memorabilia and artifacts in the country. While the Camp itself is mostly open acreage with some historical markers, a rebuilt guard tower and water tank, the compact  museum offers a look at day to day life from the World War II years in which 7,500 Japanese-American citizens were housed until the end of the war.

Museum Curator John Hopper

Hopper told the Senator, “We have visitors to the Camp year round. As a matter of fact, a small group of relatives of the descendants of the Camp will tour the area this weekend.”  The largest gathering of visitors through the year occurs on the third Saturday in May and Gardner said he’ll make plans to attend that event and meet with the visitors.

L to R: Adam Hopper, Ian DeBono, Emmie Harmon, Martin Jensen, Tarin Kemp and Lucas Rink, Senator’s Aide and Senator Gardner

Several Granada High School students are members of the Historical Preservation Society and each one volunteers their time through the year to help maintain the site and museum, as well as present informational seminars on the Camp itself. Tarin Kemp said the student’s main goal is to educate others on the history of the Camp so that form of history never repeats itself in our country.  Other students discussed the farming efforts that allowed crops to flourish on the surrounding Camp acreage, how residents were allowed off site to shop or work despite being surrounded by barbed wire and guard towers, the type of life for youngsters and students who lived on the premises and the number of Japanese-Americans from the Camp who volunteered for military duty during the way.

“What can I do to help you in your efforts?” Senator Gardner asked the gathering which included Town Mayor Glenn Otto, Trustees Riddle and Jensen and County Commissioner, Tom Grasmick and Ian DeBono. The senator said he’ll schedule talks with his counterparts when Congress reconvenes, and in the meantime will speak with Colorado representatives to bring awareness of the NPS to their attention.  He reinforced the historical significance of the Camp, “We come with blemishes in our country, but this is who we are, and we can never look at this and say this okay.”  He added that the Granada group has an ally and a cheerleader to expand on the historical development of Amache.

Hopper said he’d supply as much information as Senator Gardner needed for the National Park Service and the students added they would work with his office on language for a speech the senator intended to make in the Senate on behalf of their efforts. This included letters of support from local governments and representatives.  He added there will be future informational meetings and perhaps an on-site meeting so others can view the preservation work done at the site.

Hopper added, “This is the most pristine Camp of this nature in the country. 85% of the camp can still be accessed with locations of barracks, other buildings, roads and the cemetery.  We’ve had visitors who can look at a site or the recreated barracks and describe exactly where furniture was located, how the rooms were laid out, where the school playing fields were located.”  Hopper said the museum would be happy to donate their artifacts to the National Park Service which includes original photos, letters and some rare 16mm film of the site which has been transcribed to dvd’s.  He felt that the NPS would have greater funding resources to maintain the site for years to come, as the museum and preservation work on the camp is done mostly through private donations.

By Russ Baldwin

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