Pagat land to be nominated in national list
By Brett Kelman • Pacific Daily News • January 12, 2010
An effort to get a portion of the Pagat area listed among the most endangered historical places in America intends to disrupt the military's plan to use the area for a proposed firing range, said Joe Quinata of the Guam Preservation Trust.
Quinata is one of among those working to get the Pagat area listed in America's 11 Most Endangered Places, an annual project that has drawn the spotlight to threatened national treasures since 1988.
Every year, the National Trust for Historical Preservation, a private nonprofit corporation, publishes a list of noteworthy landmarks that may be damaged, destroyed, neglected or forgotten.
The Pagat land currently falls under the Chamorro Land Trust. It was unclear yesterday what impact the endangered historical places designation would have on the Land Trust property.
"We believe that if at least the nation is aware of what is happening here on Guam, and this program is powerful enough to make that happen, we could make changes," Quinata said. "If it doesn't change (the military's) plans, at least you have all these (watchdogs) that are monitoring the Pagat area."
Application paperwork for the project is finished and filed, Quinata said, but the Guam Preservation Trust still has until Friday to collect photographs from the public. The selected places will be named May 19.
The remains of the ancient Pagat village may be affected by the coming military buildup because the Department of Defense plans to build a firing range nearby. Quinata said he fears that military activity might destroy or trample the artifacts that remain. Although Pagat village is no more, local history is layered into the area, he said.
Grinding stones called "lusongs" and latte stone pillars are easy to find in the jungle in the area. Beneath the soil, 3,500-year-old artifacts tell a story of how ancient Chamorros lived and survived. Pagat Cave, which was once a source of fresh water for the village, is now popular hiking destination and tourist attraction.
If the buildup moves forward as planned, public access to the area will be restricted.
The public has until Feb. 17 to submit comments about the buildup plan, including Pagat Cave. Quinata said the same information provided in the application to the national trust will be submitted as a comment to the buildup.
If Pagat is chosen for the list of most endangered places, it will be an unusual -- but not unprecedented -- pick.
According to the national trust's Web site, most of the places selected are historical structures that are still standing, but are threatened by urban development or poor maintenance. Schools, stadiums, hotels and bridges that are historic, but not ancient, dominate the list.
The natural places that make the list are generally quite grand, like a 12,000 foot mountain that is threatened by uranium mining, or California's under-funded park system.
The most recently selected place that closely compares to the Pagat village is Pinon Canyon, Colo., which was selected in 2007.
The canyon was threatened by expansion by the U.S. Army facility that would have condemned private lands, damaged the historic Santa Fe Trail -- an American highway that predates automobiles -- and destroyed some undisturbed prehistoric archeological sites.
Since Pinon Canyon was selected by the National Trust for Historical Preservation, Congress and the Army have moved funding to other projects and started expanding a different facility in Louisiana, according to the national trust's Web site and the Denver Post.
Quinata said the Pagat site carries value unlike any other.
"We will be one of a kind and that's what we are looking for," Quinata said.