Harvey Marine offers to take ownership of Chief Kno-Tah statue
The city of Hillsboro is expected to decide later this month on the fate of Chief Kno-Tah, the iconic statue standing sentry in Shute Park. But should it decide to remove the statue, one local business is willing to take it off the city's hands.
In a letter sent to the city on March 24, the owner of Harvey Marine in Aloha, said his business would be willing to take the statue if the city was willing to part with it.
"We wanted to offer you a unified solution that we believe is the ultimate 'win' for the people of Hillsboro, the city and the First Nation Oregonian he was meant to stand for," wrote Paul Harvey, co-owner of Harvey Marine in Aloha.
The letter — signed by Harvey, Hillsboro realtor Dirk Knudsen and and Renner Trucking owner Shaughn Renner — said private ownership might be best for the statue if the city decides that it can't be salvaged.
"This is a new wrinkle," said Knudsen, who has been organizing support to save the statue. "It's hard to say that the city needs to destroy him when we're saying that we're willing to refurbish him and put him on private land and have a space for everybody to come and see him."
City officials have been mulling over options for the statue for weeks after a falling tree sheared off a large chunk of the statue's head and knocked it off its base earlier this year. City officials said that damage, combined with rot inside the wooden structure, likely meant the statue was coming to the end of its life.
City officials originally said the statue would be taken down, but later changed their mind, saying they would search for ways to repair the statue or save pieces of it for display elsewhere in the city.
Mary Loftin, a spokeswoman with the Hillsboro Parks and Recreation Department, said she wasn't sure whether city officials would consider the Harvey Marine proposal, but confirmed that copies of the letter had been sent to city officials, including City Manager Michael Brown, the city's senior recreation manager, parks director and assistant city managers.
Loftin said city officials are expected to make a final decision about the statue within two weeks.
'Carried the torch'
Under the new proposal, Kno-Tah would be moved to the Harvey Marine property, 21250 S.W. Tualatin Valley Highway in Aloha, where it would be on display alongside a historical plaque and a memorial to the Atfalati tribe that called the area home before white settlers took control of the land in the 1800s.
"I think it's a pretty cool thing that's worth preserving," said Harvey. "I'd hate to see (the city) tear it down and throw it away. It was a big deal when they put it up and we have the space to keep him here."
Ideally, Harvey said, he'd like to see the statue stay where it is, but he's willing to give it a home if the city decides it's not worth keeping.
"It really fits into Shute Park, it blends in nicely with the trees," he said. "It would be nice if we could preserve it in place."
Harvey Marine is already home to one iconic Hillsboro-area landmark. The business' 26-foot-tall fiberglass rabbit statue has been smiling down at commuters along TV Highway since the 1970s.
"The chief would not be right next to Harvey the Rabbit but out of respect would have his own place on the land," the letter wrote. "People from all over would be able to see him from Tualatin Valley Highway and he would have a drive-up area for visitors to the site to see as well."
According to Harvey, the Harvey Marine property is expected to go through some major renovations in the coming years. This month, crews demolished one building on the site, and Harvey said plans are to add a restaurant to the property as well as a drive-thru coffee kiosk. Harvey said any changes to the property won't impact the rabbit statue.
If the city isn't able to save the Kno-Tah statue, Knudsen said that turning it over to private ownership might be the best way to keep the statue from being destroyed.
"We do not believe any other group will offer the careful removal and restoration nor a new home so close by where Chief Kno-Tah will be standing for decades to come to greet the millions of young and old who have come to enjoy him so much these many years," the letter read.
Knudsen said the statue was one of the last reminders that others once called the Hillsboro area their home.
"In a way, the chief has carried the torch for Native Americans in this area," Knudsen said.
Knudsen said he would hire an artist to repair the statue. Artist Peter "Wolf" Toth, who carved Chief Kno-Tah in 1986, said he would be willing to fix the statue, if that's what city officials wanted.
Knudsen set up an online fundraiser to save the statue, collecting nearly $1,000 before city officials asked the public to stop donating to the campaign until a final decision was made.
Knudsen said he was surprised by the number of people who came out to show their support for the statue.
"It's nice to know that I'm not the only nut out here that wants to save that statue," Knudsen said.
By Geoff Pursinger
Associate Editor, Hillsboro Tribune