Report to the President:
Japanese-American Internment Sites Preservation
Background: The Heart Mountain Relocation Center (Relocation Center) was located in Park County, in northwest Wyoming, 12 miles northeast of the town of Cody. The Relocation Center is situated on terraces of the Shoshone River and lies at 4700 feet elevation, within open sagebrush desert.
The Relocation Center was constructed on 20,000 acres, of which 4,600 were Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) withdrawn land. These lands were transferred to the War Relocation Authority (WRA) for internment purposes pursuant to Executive Order No. 9066. Construction of the Relocation Center began on June 15, 1942, and the first evacuees arrived August 11, 1942. The maximum population of the Relocation Center reached 10,767 on January 1, 1943. The Relocation Center was in operation until November 10, 1945.
After World War II, WRA lands were returned to Reclamation along with many of the associated buildings and structures. Most of the lands and buildings were parceled-out to returning veterans under homesteading legislation with many of the residential barracks being sold to local homesteaders and removed from the site, other structures were demolished and materials salvaged. Reclamation retained a small acreage and a few buildings for administration of the irrigation project on nearby lands.
Current Status: The Relocation Center was determined eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places in July 1985. In December 1985, an approximate 30 acre portion of the original Relocation Center was listed in the Register as site 48PA229.
Since World War II, most of Reclamation's 4,600 acres have gone into private ownership, with only 73.93 acres remain under Reclamation jurisdiction. Most of the land included within the external boundaries of the Relocation Center is currently under cultivation. However, three areas have intact features:
There are a total of six standing buildings, three at the hospital complex, one within the adjacent staff housing area, one small room or vault at the high school, and a root cellar in the warehouse area.
The site is unoccupied, and the original camp buildings are subject to vandalism and littering. The site is no longer needed for Reclamation purposes, and Reclamation is currently managing it to prevent further substantial deterioration. Reclamation has undertaken activities to preserve the historic values of the site and has recently completed stabilization efforts, which consisted of leveling the floor of the hospital mess building, installing plywood or plexiglass on all building openings, and applying rolled roofing to the roofs.
The Heart Mountain, Wyoming Foundation has been extremely active in preservation efforts for the site and received a $500,000 grant in the VA-HUD appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2001 which will be used to construct a Learning Center on private land. The Foundation currently has an option to purchase 50 acres of the original camp site land on which to place the Learning Center. The Foundation is currently trying to raise the funds necessary to purchase this land. Additionally, the Foundation proposes constructing a walking trail from the Learning Center to some or all of the Relocation Center's features on Reclamation land. Finally, the Foundation as part of Phase I of the Learning Center will build a replica of the honor roll board.
Wyoming's Congressional Delegation appears to be supportive preservation efforts and Senators Craig Thomas and Mike Enzi may author and sponsor legislation to preserve and protect the Heart Mountain Relocation Center.
Interpretation: In 1995, the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in the town of Cody had a temporary exhibit on the Heart Mountain Relocation Center. The display included text, photographs, examples of the relocation center newspaper, the mimeograph machine that printed the newspaper, a Wyoming state flag used by the Relocation Center girl scout troop, a child's diary, and other artifacts.
Fifteen miles north of Cody along U.S. Highway Alt. 14, there is a historical monument placed by the American Legion and a directional sign to the relocation center memorial park. The American Legion marker mentions the state-of-the-art sewage system, excellent schools, and other amenities that were available to the evacuees.
The original honor roll, which was inscribed with the names of soldiers from the relocation center, is the central piece of the Heart Mountain Memorial Park. The park was initiated by the Heart Mountain Relocation Center Memorial Association. The park includes plaques, a sidewalk, and a graveled parking area surrounded by large rocks. Also there is a concrete slab that once supported a brick chimney with a plaque noting it was moved from Block 23. To the north are the three standing hospital buildings and the staff residence.
There are several fine examples of former barracks in the surrounding area. One was donated to the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles. Another good example of a recycled barracks is on a farm just north of Cody on State Highway 120. It appears to be unused at present.
Also at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles is a 55-gallon barrel full of small stones, each one carefully inscribed with a Japanese character. The barrel of stones was found by local land owners near the former Relocation Center cemetery. It has been theorized that the stones may have been Buddhist sutras to memorialize the dead, but the museum is still seeking more information about them.
The burials at the relocation center cemetery were moved to the Crown Hill Cemetery in the town of Powell, 11 miles northeast of Heart Mountain. The cemetery is located on the eastern edge of Powell on the south side of Lane 7 (Cemetery Road).
Management authorities, practices and annual expenditures: Section 110 of the National Historic Preservation Act (16 U.S.C. 470 et seq.) provides Reclamation the authority to manage and maintain the Relocation Center. The lands are withdrawn land of the Shoshone Project which we have interpreted to permit the use of Shoshone Project Cultural Resource nonreimbursable operation and maintenance funding for limited maintenance for stabilization purposes of the historic structures of the Relocation Center.
While Reclamation has the legal authority to continue managing the site, the agency does not presently possess the funding or staffing to restore the site and develop appropriate interpretation. In addition, these activities are outside of Reclamation's central mission and would be more appropriately conducted by another Federal agency, such as the National Park Service (NPS), which has historic preservation and interpretation as part of its central mission.
Regional Context: Nearby recreational areas include many acres of public land under the administration of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), with its field office in Cody, Wyoming. The Big Horn and Shoshone National Forests, under the administration of the U.S.D.A. Forest Service, are located within an hour's drive to the east and west, respectively, and provide public recreational opportunities. Additionally, the NPS administers the Big Horn National Recreation Area, within an hour's drive to the northeast. Another recreational attraction in the region is Reclamation's Buffalo Bill Dam and Reservoir, which is administered as a Wyoming State Park located a few miles west of Cody, Wyoming.
Public access to the Relocation Center is available via U.S. Highway 14 (Alternate) and a light duty gravel road which departs Highway 14 to the northwest.
Interested Parties/Stakeholders and Opinions: The Relocation Center enjoys the recognition and support of local historic preservation groups and the Japanese-American Citizens League. Former internees regularly visit the Relocation Center under the auspices of the Japanese American Citizens League and the Heart Mountain, Wyoming Foundation, a local group based in Powell, Wyoming.
Advisory Council on Historic Preservation - Favors ongoing, proactive protection, stabilization, and management of the Relocation Center as required under NHPA Section 110, and prefers retention of the Relocation Center in Federal ownership.
Wyoming State Historic Preservation Office - The SHPO position appears to closely follow the Council's, they have articulated non-support for transfer of the Relocation Center to a non-Federal entity because this would result in a loss of Federal protection and management.
Heart Mountain, Wyoming Foundation - Favors preservation, restoration, enhancement, interpretation of the Relocation Center.
Heart Mountain Relocation Center Memorial Association - A now defunct organization which favored limited development as a memorial to the former internees.
Heart Mountain Japanese American Memorial Foundation, Inc. - A now defunct organization which favored a greater degree of development of the Relocation Center as a memorial or possibly a local tourist attraction.
Heart Mountain High School Class of 1947 - This group's position is to memorialize the Relocation Center so that the injustices suffered by the internees are not forgotten.
NHK Broadcasting Corporation - Have factually reported the position of the Heart Mountain Class of 1947.
Powell Tribune - Have factually reported on the former internees and the Japanese-American community.
Powell Valley Chamber of Commerce - Appear to have similar views to that of the Heart Mountain, Wyoming Foundation.
Shoshone and Heart Mountain Irrigation Districts - They have no continued need for the property.
Deaver Irrigation District - Same as the Shoshone-Heart Mountain Irrigation Districts.
Powell Centennial Committee - Position of this defunct organization is essentially that of the Heart Mountain Japanese American Memorial Foundation.
Bureau of Land Management, Cody Field Office - The local office has not expressed an interest in assuming management responsibility for the Relocation Center.
Potential legislative actions: The Heart Mountain, Wyoming Foundation has received a $500,000 grant in the VA-HUD appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2001 which will be used for construction of a Learning Center.
Wyoming's Congressional Delegation appears to be supportive of preservation efforts and Senators Craig Thomas and Mike Enzi may author and sponsor legislation to preserve and protect the Relocation Center.
Reclamation will work with the Heart Mountain, Wyoming Foundation (based in nearby Powell, Wyoming) to assist them in achieving the recommendations made in their letter of December 19, 2000 to Secretary Babbitt. Reclamation will assist Heart Mountain, Wyoming Foundation in securing National Historic Landmark status for the Relocation Center to the extent allowed by the National Historic Landmark eligibility criteria. Additionally, Reclamation will develop a management plan for the Relocation Center in consultation with all interested parties and stakeholders.