Barn getting retrofit

Seismic upgrades of the historic barn at Deukmejian Wilderness Park are set to move forward more than a year after the project was delayed by the state budget crisis.

The City Council today is expected to open the bidding process for the estimated $1.2 million in upgrades to the 3,000-square-foot Le Mesnager stone barn, which will begin the fourth phase of development at the park.

Three previous phases — including a historical assessment and construction of trails, picnic areas, restrooms and other public areas — have been completed since environmental documents for the master plan were approved in 1992.

The seismic upgrade project was shelved last year after grant funding was frozen by the state, but that money has since been released, and the project is ready to move forward, officials said.

“Now that it’s back, we will make good progress on this,” said George Chapjian, director of the city’s Community Services & Parks Department.

The final step of the process will be to find an additional $1.2 million to $1.5 million in grant funds to complete the barn’s transformation into an interpretive center, which can host classes, lectures and meetings, Chapjian said.

In the meantime, the seismic upgrades may allow for docent-led tours of the barn, according to a city report.

The park has been closed to the public since last year’s Station fire. Much of the land was left scorched, but the developed area of the park, including the barn, was saved.

City officials are still evaluating how long the park will remain closed to the public, but the barn upgrades will not be affected by the recovery efforts, Chapjian said.

The estimated seven months of construction is tentatively scheduled to start in May.

The barn, which was purchased by the city in 1988, was originally built in the early 20th century by George Le Mesnager, a French immigrant, prominent winegrower and Los Angeles businessman. The barn was used as a stable and to store wine grapes before their shipment to the Los Angeles Winery.

Mike Lawler, president of the Historical Society of the Crescenta Valley, said the stone and mortar barn is a good example of native architecture.

The barn is similar to the nearby Rockhaven Sanitarium in that it is one of few remaining links to the area’s history, he said.“The valley was a huge grape-producing area from the 1800s. It was an important industry all the way into the ’40s and ’50s,” Lawler said.

“The (barn) is the last link to that once big industry.”

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