SUBSCRIBE NOW
99¢ for the first month
SUBSCRIBE NOW
99¢ for the first month

Could Amache become a National Park?

Christian Burney
cburney@ljtdmail.com
<p>The guard tower still stands at the site of Camp Amache, where U.S. citizens of Japanese descent were housed during World War II. [COURTESY PHOTO/MAX McCOY]</p>

Otero County Commissioners signed a letter of support Monday addressed to National Park Service Project Manager Tamara Del in which they expressed enthusiastic support for designating Amache near Granada, Colo., a national park.

The Otero County commissioners board members are Commissioner Keith Goodwin, Commissioner John Hostetler and Commissioner Jim Baldwin, representing Districts 1, 2 and 3, respectively.

"The Otero County Board of County Commissioners would like to express our absolute support for the development and designation of the Granada Relocation Center, also known as the Amache Internment Camp, in becoming a new unit of the National Park System," the board says in the letter. "We strongly believe this historic site in our neighboring county of Prowers meets the criteria for designation and that the National Park System can create space for all Americans and visitors to America to honorably remember the internment of Japanese Americans."

Amache was previously designated a National Historic Landmark on Feb. 10, 2006. Before that it had been placed on the National Register of Historic Places on May 18, 1994 -- according to amache.org, an online information resource about the World War II era Japanese interment camp located in Southeast Colorado.

The board cited amache.org in the letter, noting that Amache was unique among other Japanese internment camps in that it had the highest rate of military service of all the camps. According to the website, a total of 953 men and women -- or nearly 10% of all people in Camp Amache -- volunteered or were drafted for military service during World War II.

The commissioners also referenced farming efforts (four million pounds of vegetables grown by Granada farmers), a Boy Scout Troop, a community newspaper and other activities that interned Japanese and Japanese Americans took part in during their forced stay at Amache.

"Amache also had a host of notable internees, including Chiyoko Sakamoto, California's first Japanese American female lawyer, Robert S. Hamada, the Edward Eagle Brown Distinguished Service Professor of Finance Emeritus at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and former dean of Chicago Booth, and Sam Saburo Teresaki and Kiyoshi K. Muranaga, two decorated soldiers in the US Army," the board says in the letter.

"We believe it is important to preserve and designate this historical site to acknowledge the 10,000 Japanese Americans who were wrongfully incarcerated and passed through this internment camp in its three-year existence, and to honor the brave internees who fought and died for our country when they were called to duty," continues the letter. "It is also an especially critical duty, considering our current political climate, to look to America's past and collectively recognize our mistakes to learn from them and make informed and compassionate future decisions. Recognizing this site as a National Park would communicate to all Americans and visitors to our country that we will not lose sight of the gravity of the internment of Japanese Americans."

The National Park Service had announced a Special Resource Study of the Granada Relocation Center (Amache) to determine its eligibility for the national park system. The study will take a total of about three years to complete, at which time it will announce whether or not Amache is to be accepted.

The park service will gauge Amache's eligibility based on four standards, the park service said: national significance, suitability, feasibility and the need for National Park Service management.

Tribune-Democrat reporter Christian Burney can be reached by email at cburney@ljtdmail.com. Help support local journalism by subscribing to the La Junta Tribune-Democrat at lajuntatribunedemocrat.com/subscribenow.

The Otero County Commissioners sent a letter addressed to National Park Service Project Manager Tamara Del in which they expressed enthusiastic support for designating Amache near Granada, Colo., a national park.