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Picnic shelter torn down – Lions roaring

POULSBO — It took the Poulsbo Noon Lions months of planning, preparation and construction to build the picnic shelter at Raab Park in 1978, but when the city discovered extensive rot, the donated shelter came down almost overnight.

When razing of the shelter was completed in early-May, many involved in the local civic group and the Lions 1978 volunteer project were confused about why elected officials in Poulsbo neglected to inform them — others took it as a slap in the face.

The Poulsbo Noon Lions celebrate their 60th anniversary later this year and the shelter had come to symbolize much of what the organization has stood for over the decades.

“My shock was when I noticed it was gone,” explained Herb Armstrong, noting that he was volunteering at a fishing derby in early-May when a Noon Lion who doubles as a Poulsbo Senior Volunteer broke the unexpected news. “He said, ‘Herb did you know someone tore down the shelter?’ I said, ‘I had no idea.’”

The decision wasn’t a secret. The city has been discussing the fate of the dilapidated structure for more than a year. Poulsbo City Council approved the capital improvement project during its 2002 budget process. The proposal to tear down the shelter, which originally started as a plan to replace the roof, has been discussed in detail by both the public works and parks and recreation committees.

Even so, the Lions were not informed and members agree that a quick phone call by the city would have gone a long way in this instance.

“We cut all the poles on my tree farm,” Armstrong said.

That work was completed in 1977, he added. The wood was then cured on the “dirt fill by Liberty Bay” — now Waterfront Park — and then transported up to Raab Park for assembly. Armstrong estimated that about 40 Lions worked together to build the shelter, which was expanded five years later to include additional space and a barbecue.

“We didn’t build it to own it — we built it for the community,” Armstrong said, flipping through a series of photo slides that depicted the tree felling operation and construction.

One slide showed former Poulsbo Mayor Frank Raab cutting a log, another, Neil Storey with a fresh cast on his wrist. He broke it after falling off the shelter roof.

“Heck, even the guy who they named the park after was there working,” Armstrong pointed out.

Other shots show a young Jeff Tolman placing shingles, retired Pearson Elementary School Principal Bob Allen and numerous others whose names have become synonymous with “volunteerism” and “community pride” over the years.

“We had the whole club participate,” Armstrong said, adding that the now defunct Evening Lions also pitched in on the project. “The Evening Lions? Oh, they’re gone now.”

So are many of the men and women who spearheaded the shelter some 24 years ago.

The structure was a tribute to the community but, according to some city officials, it was also becoming a safety concern.

“It was falling down. It was a mess,” Parks and Recreation Director Mary McCluskey said, referring questions about the razing and renovation to Public Works Supt. Bill Duffy.

“The roof was shot,” Duffy said, indicating a series of digital camera photos that showed holes in the structure. “The crew was afraid to climb up there without ladders. When they got up there to fix the roof they found that the rafters were rotting as well — it was all just worn out and rotted through.”

While Duffy was responsible for the razing and the ongoing renovation work, he has also only been with the city for about three years and said he was simply unaware of the history of the shelter or any fracas that might be caused by the project.

“I didn’t know the Lions had anything to do with it — I’m sure someone did but I sure didn’t,” he remarked.

City Maintenance Technician Dan Fuller headed up the design crew at the new structure. He and other staffers were on site Thursday afternoon to finish the cement floor.

“You could stand on a picnic table and pretty much shake the whole building with one hand,” Fuller said, noting that core samples showed a good deal of rot. “There was some good wood, but overall it was not structurally sound.”

But Armstrong disputes this point.

“I built our carport out of the same stuff and it’s still standing,” he said. “I could show you that one. It was built the same year and it’s not rotten.”

According to Fuller, Fred Hill Materials helped keep costs down for the shelter replacement project, which will cost the city anywhere from $16,000 to $18,000 to complete and will include new picnic tables as well. Fire pits will also be added later. Duffy said the new shelter was just a portion of the renovations at Raab Park. Public Works recently increased parking at the south end, replaced the roof on another structure at the site and is looking at plans for a new bathroom.

Even so, Poulsbo’s plans cannot replace the pride of achievement felt by the local Lions.

“It was a part of me, I guess,” Armstrong said, looking for answers. “Golly, why’d they do that? Foul up on... We put a lot of heart into it with a flick of a wrist they tore it down.”

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