Proposal of Friends of Artesians to the City of Olympia16 May 2001
Friends of Artesians (FOA) was formed in 1996 for the sole purpose of ensuring that there is a public, accessible artesian well in or near downtown Olympia. FOA members share the belief that artesian wells are a distinctive part of Olympia's history and identity that is in danger of being irrevocably lost. FOA was founded by local citizens to counter the diminishing public access to artesian wells and artesian water in Olympia.
Friends of Artesians is affiliated with The Community Foundation, which provides fiscal sponsorship, financial oversight, and technical assistance. The Community Foundation is a non-profit umbrella organization that supports charitable activities in Thurston, Mason and Lewis Counties.
FOA has a small corps of active members, a mailing list of 500, and a donor base of 80 individuals who have made contributions ranging from less than $1 to $1,500. In addition, several professionals - a hydro-geologist, a well-driller, a writer, an engineering firm, an architect, an artist, and a local attorney, to mention just a few - have made substantial in-kind contributions. FOA members and supporters include local businesses, and people of every age and walk of life. FOA's donors and participants believe that artesian wells and artesian water are an important part of Olympia's history and civic identity, and that free public access to an artesian well is a part of Olympia's unique heritage.
Similar heritage wells exist in two communities: Ashland, Oregon, and Salt Lake City, Utah. In both cases, these wells are owned and maintained by local municipalities, and are regarded as important resources both for local use and as tourist attractions.
Over the past several years, FOA, working cooperatively and informally with both public agencies and private parties, has evaluated various potential public well locations. FOA concluded that such a facility should be located on land owned by the Port District of Olympia, just east of the Farmers' Market. While other potential sites on Port land and elsewhere have also been identified, this site has been deemed "preferred" by a variety of stakeholders, including users of the existing well on 4th Avenue.
II. The Diamond Parking lot well
Many downtown Olympia businesses used to have private artesian wells. Nearly ail of them have been capped. Currently The Spar and King Solomon's Reef are the only remaining business that use on-site artesian wells. A public drinking fountain at the corner of Fourth and Washington that was fed by an artesian well was decommissioned several years ago.
The last remaining artesian well that is accessible to the public is located in a Diamond parking lot on Fourth Avenue near Franklin Street.
Since its founding, FOA has worked to keep this last public well safe and accessible. FOA has paid (or marshaled volunteer resources) to have the water tested and the well maintained, and has engaged in protracted negotiations with a variety of regulatory agencies that have, at various times, threatened to shut the well down. While FOA and its allies have succeeded in keeping the well open to date, the long term prospects for the well are dim. The well itself is nearly one hundred years old, and the casing will eventually rust out. The permitting process for re-drilling it is formidable. Perhaps even more important, Diamond Parking appears to be unwilling to sell or donate the well site to the City or to FOA, and the land on which the well now sits is slated for development. Thus, the well's days are numbered.
III. The Artesian Well Facility
It now appears timely to approach the two governing bodies that would be involved in the establishment of a well at a new site on Port land - the City of Olympia and the Port of Olympia. FOA requests that both of these public entities initiate a jointly implemented, staged strategy leading to the establishment of a public artesian well at the preferred site, or, if that proves impracticable, at an alternate site.
FOA proposes the following specific elements of such a strategy:
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