The Wahkiakum County Eagle - Established as The Skamokawa Eagle in 1891

Funding comes together for Pioneer Center upgrade


Rick Nelson

The historic Pioneer Community Center (formerly Pioneer Church) in Cathlamet.

In August, thanks to the tenacity of the current Pioneer Community Association, the 125 year old Pioneer Church in Cathlamet might be getting a little TLC.

"We're just really in limbo," Paige Lake said.

So much depends on covid-19.

"It's an iconic building and adopted symbol for the Town of Cathlamet," Lake said. "If you come in by water, it's right there and pretty recognizable."

Lake and Suzanne Holmes, who is also on the board, approached Washington State Senator and one-time Wahkiakum resident Dean Takko, hoping to secure funds to pay for some much needed upgrades.

The Pioneer Church, or Pioneer Center as it is called now, needed a new roof, and it needed to be painted, badly. It also needed some foundation work because a spring runs underneath the property.

"We also wanted to update the bathroom, so we could get the church back into a state where people would enjoy coming back for community events," Lake said.

After securing $165,000 from the capitol budget thanks to Senator Takko, they ran into a new problem.

They discovered that some lead paint was exposed. The paint that was on the church was so old it had worn away and exposed the lead based paint underneath, Lake said. They had to find someone who would do lead paint abatement. That shot the cost of the painting up over $100,000, which meant the PCA didn't have enough to do the roof and the painting.

"I always thought it was the foundation that was going to kill us," Board Member April Peterson said, "but it was the cheapest thing on the plate. Thank heavens people have been maintaining it. It's funny when I go through the notes, you see the cycle of this building. This is like the third time that you can see the cycle where it has gone downhill."

Lake went back to Senator Takko, and he simply asked, "how much more do you need?"

"I always thought it was a pretty cool building," Takko said. "We can't just let the thing go down the drain and just give up the money. So I went back to the capitol budget chair and said that building means a lot to me."

He was able to secure another $55,000.

"A lot of money, work, and energy has gone into making it," Lake said. "To look halfway decent and to not have a good roof and a paint job on it wouldn't look that great. I'm more than happy."

"It will give us enough to make the building structurally sound," Lake said, "and then some of the other things that need to be done, like painting the front stairs, we can do that ourselves."

A lot of the construction companies are busy, so the Pioneer Church is on a list.

"Hopefully we can get the work done before the winter," Lake said. "That poor building!"

While they wait, they continue to plan other projects. Painting inside, replacing the steeple topper, a bathroom renovation, and more.

Also there are dreams of how to remember a former President of the PCA, Kay Cochran.

"We got a lot of donations in memory of Kay Cochran," Lake said. "The church was one of her favorite things. That was really nice to see that. We were trying to come up with something that we could use that money for, that people would remember Kay by."

One idea was a rose garden, but another is a bell system, which Peterson is looking into.

Meanwhile, the PCA still needs two more board members, and they are looking for people who might be interested in planning events, once the building is ready to go again.


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