A campaign urging voters to approve funding for land for the Jackson Hole Historical Society and Museum is underway.
Political action committee “Friends of History on the Block” officially filed its paperwork to advocate for a $4.4 million specific excise tax ballot measure that would buy up the corner of Willow St. and Broadway Ave. for a permanent home for the museum.
The location is the southeast corner of the 135 E. Broadway block recently purchased by the Jackson Hole Land Trust and partners after a successful $7 million fundraising campaign to protect the block’s character and prevent it from redevelopment into a three-story hotel.
Clarene Law, co-chair of the history museum PAC, said voters’ approval of the $4.4 million in specific purpose excise tax funding is the final step following the Land Trust’s successful campaign to preserve the “Cafe Genevieve” block.
“The way this community has come together to support the Genevieve block and a permanent home for our history is unlike anything I’ve seen. And I’ve seen a lot,” Law said in a statement. “I am so pleased to see the community energy and success around this initiative. Now we just need to cross the finish line with the SPET election and the final piece of funding for anchoring the block with our history museum.”
The history museum has long operated out of an old building on Glenwood St. and Deloney Ave., but that space can only open in the brief summer months. A space the museum leases from Teton County on Mercill Ave. will soon be redeveloped for a workforce housing project. And its building’s lease on N. Cache St. is getting more expensive each year.
If voters approve the $4.4 million, the plan is to sell the Cache property and move the museum’s three historic cabins on Mercill Ave. to the Cafe Genevieve block to “get all our visitor-facing services into one primary, year-round location,” museum director Morgan Jaoeun said.
That means exhibits, classrooms, event space, offices, a research center and a reading room could land on the site.
It’s not the museum’s first go-around seeking SPET money. Teton County clerk’s records show that voters shut down a request for $1.75 million in 1989 for the museum to purchase property. The community approved $3 million in SPET funding in 2006 to purchase the N. Cache building with a long-term, escalating ground lease. In 2014, voters rejected a $4 million ask to complete the Cache site.
The important difference for this SPET election, Jaoeun said, is that the museum would be purchasing land, not just a building with a ground lease.
“Thinking long term about the future of the historical society, really what we need is to own land and have a permanent home we can rely on,” Jaoeun said. “This is our chance, I think, to do it right, and have a permanent home for history.”
Another political action committee called “Safe Wildlife Crossings for Jackson Hole” was formed Aug. 21 to push for a $10 million measure for structures allowing animals to navigate Teton County’s roadways. PAC chair Barbara Allen said the committee is affiliated with the Greater Yellowstone Coalition and the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance.
“As a whole, this community — regardless of tenure or party or opinion — values its wildlife very highly,” Allen said. “I for one am really proud to be part of an effort to help minimize if not eradicate wildlife deaths on our roadways and the damage it can potentially cause to humans from an injury perspective and a cost.”
Other PACs that have formed ahead of the Nov. 5 election include “Residents for Recreation,” which will push for a $22 million expansion of the Teton County/Jackson Parks and Recreation Center, and “Jackson Hole Votes Yes,” which is supporting all 10 ballot measures totaling $77 million.