Rebecca Goodwin, with the Otero County Historic Preservation Board, stopped by the Monday meeting of the Board of County Commissioners to provide an update on the organization's Japanese-American architectural and archaeological project and to announce that the preservation board is interested in pursuing a second phase of the project.

The announcement came prior to a presentation Wednesday in Rocky Ford about the board's initial findings of Japanese-American history in Otero County.

"There's so much more history to capture, especially through the Nisei," Goodwin told the commissioners.

Nisei refers to persons born in this country to Japanese-born immigrants. All of the first-generation people of Japanese heritage who came to the United States in the 1910s and earlier part of the 20th century have passed away, according to Goodwin.

There are still Nisei, however, and in the first phase of the historical project, the preservation board could not complete all of the interviews and oral histories they wanted to. Thus, the preservation board is on the search for more funding and hopes to have identified grant resources to pitch to county commissioners.

A report on the thematic history of Japanese-Americans in the county that was generated in the first phase of the research project was submitted to the State Historical Fund on April 22, said Goodwin.

The report includes the archaeological and historic sites that the preservation board was given permission to document, as well as the historic context of the sites, photographs and other documentation acquired through the research project.

The report, once finalized, will be an open record accessible to the public. The location of certain archaeological site locations, however, will be redacted as they exist on private land, said Goodwin.

The preservation board will pass copies of the final report to the public library, and the entire redacted file will be digitized and made available on Otero County's website.

"We're just starting to get some of the comments back to make some edits on that," said Goodwin. "The final report will be completed and wrapped up by June 30."

The preservation board also documented a large Japanese-American section of graves and headstones at the Rocky Ford Cemetery, Goodwin said.

"There are some ... older ones that are in tough shape. I'm going to start to have some cleaning done on them," said Goodwin.

Goodwin said she's working on getting an organization of architectural historians to start a pilot project at the Rocky Ford Cemetery.

"If they think that might work, then we'll work with the City of Rocky Ford to get the permission to maybe go in and maybe clean some of those headstones and reset them so they don't fall over," she said.

cburney@ljtdmail.com