Making a museum " the hard way | SierraSun.com

Making a museum " the hard way

Jamie Bate

In his 30 years in the California State Parks system, Hayden Sohm, the Sierra District superintendent, hasn’t seen as many letters on one issue as he has over the proposed High Sierra Crossing Museum at Donner Memorial State Park.

Unfortunately for Sohm, the museum was conceived long before his August arrival in the Sierra. Nonetheless, in his first winter in the mountains he’s the one now being buried by the blizzard of comment letters ” 80 so far and all opposed to the project. And that’s not counting a petition.

All that reinforces what I’ve learned in my nearly 12-month tenure here in Truckee: Folks are pretty outspoken and involved, which is great. But others are downright persnickety, as Sohm is learning, when they hear you are a newcomer (particularly one who came from SoCal, as he did).

Sohm isn’t trying to cram the museum down anyone’s throat. He’s playing cards that were already dealt by holding together a convoluted funding package made up of state bond funds and federal transportation money earmarked for the $6 million project. So that means the money can’t at this point be used to acquire land or offset the Golden State’s deficit, as some have suggested. Essentially it’s a use-it-or-lose-it proposition.

“The bond money and the (transportation) money is very specific,” Sohm said. “There really is no way to take that money.”

Even using federal transportation funds for a museum is stretching it a bit (my thought, not necessarily Sohm’s). But hey, the Donner Party and those who followed were, um, the first commuters, right?

So with all the letters in mind, Sohm and his staff have taken the museum idea back to the drawing board to mollify the natives. He hopes to have something soon.

“I feel that hopefully by next week we’ll have a better outcome,” Sohm said.

We say good luck.

Jamie Bate is the editor of the Sierra Sun. E-mail jbate@sierrasun.com