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On the brink of turning 100 years old, Yuma’s old City Hall is in dire need of repairs. As a reminder of the upcoming milestone, the year “1920” is stamped above the ornate entryway.
Today the building, located at 181 W. 1st St., houses a number of nonprofit groups, including the Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area, Visit Yuma, Yuma County Chamber of Commerce, Caballeros de Yuma and United Way.
However, along with celebrating a century of history, the Heritage Area wants to start giving it some tender loving care in the way of repairs.
But it will take money.
That’s not the only concern facing the organization. It also oversees a number of local landmarks, including the historic Territorial Prison, Colorado River State Historic Park and the East and West Wetlands along the riverfront.
The sally port at the historic prison has its own timestamp of “1875” on the arch entry that received many prisoners from 1876 to 1909. Today, the tourist attraction continues to welcome thousands of visitors each year.
However, the sally port is made of adobe and has suffered degradation over the years due to weather, earthquakes and, with the railroad adjacent to it, the vibration from passing trains.
In 2011, the Heritage Area restored it, but the company that did the work did it incorrectly. “Apparently whoever did the work put some kind of waterproof coat of paint or sealer, which is not a good thing to do with adobe,” explained Lowell Perry Jr., executive director of the YCNHA. “What has happened is that the water comes up from the soil and the water is absorbed by the adobe.”
Now the organization has to totally redo the work. The National Park Service sent experts to assess the condition and have come up with a plan to properly restore the sally port.
But it will take money.
The corral house at the Colorado River park, formerly known as the Quartermaster Depot, is one of the oldest adobe structures in the area. It’s also in urgent need of restoration.
But it will take money.
The Heritage Area received a grant for a new overlook at the East Wetlands. The organization also wants to beautify the area and add more accessible trails. There are grants available, but they require matching funds.
Again, it will take money.
On Friday, the Heritage Area announced a campaign called “Be Yuma’s Future by Investing in its Past” for raising funds for each individual area that the organization oversees. The organization hopes to raise $100,000.
In conjunction, Yuma Mayor Doug Nicholls proclaimed Dec. 3 as Giving Tuesday to “encourage all citizens to join together to give back to the community in any way that is personally meaningful.”
With the campaign announced in front of the old City Hall, Perry noted the importance of the building. He called it “an enclave for the nonprofit community” which “work together for the benefit of Yuma.”
He’s confident that Yumans will support the campaign, pointing out that the community has a history of coming together. When the Colorado River park and territorial prison were “threatened with extinction, citizens of this community came together to make sure that didn’t happen,” he said.
He added: “For me, at the end of the day, it is all about the kids. It would be absolutely a shame if the treasures that we all hold so dear, if those kids can’t see them, can’t touch them, can’t experience them firsthand.”
Sarah Halligan, communications specialist, said that the Heritage Area has been working on a strategy for saving these assets. “With the community being so giving, we thought what better way than to use Giving Tuesday as a way to kick off our fundraising efforts for now and for years to come,” Halligan said.
She stressed the need for quick action. “The sally port is withering away, and with our monsoon seasons, it’s pretty scary, so we need to act fast,” she said, adding that the coral house “could collapse if we don’t take care of that, and it’s been around since the 1800s, and we’d hate to see that go, as it’s what put Yuma on the map.”
As for the old City Hall, “it would be a shame for anything terrible to happen to this building while we sit around waiting to get funding for it,” Halligan said.
Perry noted that the proclamation is not just for the Heritage Area, but for all nonprofits that participate in the season of giving.
Nicholls said, “Yuma is an extremely giving community, and this just makes it formal, but this is something that happens every day in Yuma. As I expect, Yuma will outperform any other city of its size in the state for sure in our giving.”
The proclamation indicates that Giving Tuesday was established as a national day of giving on the day following Thanksgiving and that it’s a “celebration of philanthropy and volunteerism where people give whatever they are able to give.”
It also states that “it is fitting and proper on Giving Tuesday and on every day to recognize the tremendous impact of philanthropy, volunteerism and community service in the City of Yuma.”
More information on the fundraising campaign will be available through a website that will soon go live. To learn more, call Halligan at 928-373-5198.