The Greater Bonney Lake Historical Society was one of many that participated in February’s Pierce County history event, hosted by the Pierce County Library System to encourage Pierce County residents to learn about their area’s history and heritage. Photo courtesy GBLHS

The Greater Bonney Lake Historical Society was one of many that participated in February’s Pierce County history event, hosted by the Pierce County Library System to encourage Pierce County residents to learn about their area’s history and heritage. Photo courtesy GBLHS

‘We don’t want to see it fall away’

The Greater Bonney Lake Historical Society is facing challenges, the most noteworthy being its members moving away and not having a place to call its own.

With six of its most prevalent members moving away from the area, the Greater Bonney Lake Historical Society is sounding the call for aid.

Ever since the group secured its non-profit status in 2001, the Historical Society has put “an astronomical amount of work” into educating the general public about their city’s heritage, Bonney Lake City Councilman Dan Swatman said in a May 1 workshop, everything from the area’s first settlers who traveled the famous Naches Trail across the Cascades in the 1850s to Bonney Lake’s arguably most famous residents, Alfred and Elma Milotte, who worked with Walt Disney himself on a number of nature films, winning six Academy awards.

But the organization’s biggest issue, not having a permanent place to set up a museum, looks to be turning into a fatal flaw.

“We don’t want to see it fall away,” said Glenn Taylor, a member of the group and husband of its president, Joanne. “We’re going to do what we need to do to keep it afloat unless we get a stone wall.”

The group currently operates out of Bonney Lake’s old council chambers at the Public Works Center, having been gifted that temporary space in 2012.

But without a permanent location for the Historical Society, the organization is ineligible to receive a vast majority of grants.

The Historic Society has approached the City Council for years, asking if there was any way the council could further help, most notably by arranging a permanent location for a future museum, which would go a long way in solving many of the group’s difficulties.

But even if the City Council managed to find and agree to giving the society adequate space tomorrow, there’s still the matter of staffing — to have a museum, you first need people to take care of it.

To that effect, the society has been examining the relationship the city of DuPont has with the DuPont Historical Museum, where the city owns the museum space and everything in it, has one paid staff member to help oversee everything, but also has a board of directors comprised of volunteers who cater the museum and takes care of the city’s collections.

“We’re hoping Bonney Lake would consider something like that, and it may encourage them to actually dedicate a building for a museum,” said Winona Jacobsen, an active member of the Bonney Lake Historical Society.

The City Council and Mayor Neil Johnson have voiced support for the society, but public discussion hasn’t been held since the May 1 meeting.

“We can’t just let it go away,” Johnson said. “We just can’t.”

But unless enough interest in the Historical Society is garnered past the summer, it seems more than likely it will have to dissolve.

This doesn’t just mean packing up the items and collections the society has obtained over the years for future generations to revive the Historical Society.

“If the city doesn’t step up, we’ll be going through dissolution,” Winona said. “Since we’re a non-profit, we will have to — according to our by-laws — donate to a non-profit historical society or museum.”

The society does not yet know where their collections (which includes over 60 boxes of materials pertaining to the Milottes, a treasure trove for Disney fans) may end up if they dissolve, though the Buckley Historical Society, the Puyallup Historical Society, and the Enumclaw Historical Society have expressed interest in receiving these items.

How you can help

Members of the public can easily get involved with the museum as well.

“We have opportunities galore,” said President Joanne Taylor.

The board of directors meets at the Public Works Building every third Monday of the month, typically from around 6 to 7 p.m.

Even with so much institutional knowledge leaving by the end of the summer, new volunteers wouldn’t have to worry about starting from scratch, the society said.

“We belong to the South Sound Heritage Association, and I can almost guarantee some of these other museums would be happy to loan you displays if you have a place to display them,” Taylor said, adding that several veteran volunteers will remain to help newcomers find their way around.

The society also already has computer hardware and software to use if the organization gets a building.

But volunteers don’t have to come in thinking the entire weight of the Historical Society will be placed on their shoulders.

“We’ve got people that are inputting into computers…, assembling displays. We have people that will just answer questions at Bonney Lake Days and Tunes@Tapps, that type of thing,” Joanne said; if you want to volunteer, they’ll find room for you. “We’re forever taking ideas from people and how to expand and let people know what we’ve got going on.”

For more information, you can visit the Greater Bonney Lake Historical Society’s website at www.gblhs.org, or contact the society directly by calling (253) 447-3268 or emailing gblhs2013@gmail.com.

The Greater Bonney Lake Historical Society used to run the Milotte Film Festival, showing the work Alfred and Elma Milotte did with Walt Disney. The festival began in 2012 but stopped just two years ago due to the lack of venue. In this photo here, the Milottes can be seen filming their 1955 documentary, “The African Lion.” Submitted photo

The Greater Bonney Lake Historical Society used to run the Milotte Film Festival, showing the work Alfred and Elma Milotte did with Walt Disney. The festival began in 2012 but stopped just two years ago due to the lack of venue. In this photo here, the Milottes can be seen filming their 1955 documentary, “The African Lion.” Submitted photo

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