Pearson Air Museum without a home after contract dispute

Pearson Air Museum without a home after contract dispute »Play Video
Workers had mostly cleared out the Pearson Air Museum Tuesday night after being evicted because of a contract dispute with the National Park Service.

VANCOUVER, Wash. – Workers on Tuesday moved planes and other assets out of the Pearson Air Museum because of a contract dispute between the National Park Service and the city of Vancouver.

Moving trucks came and went, and by the end of the day much of the museum was cleared out.

Pearson Field is the oldest operating airfield in the West. And the museum, built in 1995, teaches the history of aviation in the area. It is run by the nonprofit Fort Vancouver National Trust on behalf of the city of Vancouver.

But the National Park Service owns the land, and the two parties have had several disagreements over using the space particularly on how the museum hosts outside events that don't keep with National Park Service rules.

So yesterday the park service terminated its contract with the city, effectively ordering the museum staff to vacate. That contract was supposed to run through 2025.

It's not clear what the park service plans to do with the museum space, but everything inside is owned by either the national trust or by donors who have loaned assets to the museum.

For now, those assets are being moved to a nearby hangar for safe storage.

"It really is heartbreaking and it is also quite troubling that the park service has determined that, although this has clearly been developed as a community asset and supported as such, that simply because they own the property on which the museum is built, they have the right to come in and take it over," said Elson Strahan, president and CEO of Fort Vancouver National Trust.

"A lot of people are really upset with what's happened with the museum and are demanding answers," said Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt.

The National Park Service did not immediately respond to phone calls for comment Tuesday.

Museum supporters are now turning their attention to Congress hoping local lawmakers will get involved and intervene.

Staff and volunteers at the museum will be back Wednesday morning to finish the job of clearing out what's left.