The Julie Partansky wildlife viewing area at Northstar Pond is still off-limits due to a suspicious fire in late April, and since that time the city and community groups have been working to get the area repaired.
“The city has been working with our insurance adjuster,” said Christine Helweg, a city community services supervisor.
Part of the process of getting insurance money is to go out for bid on the project and get back a reasonable idea of what the repairs will cost. That will happen sometime soon, Helweg said.
One point of pause is that two community groups associated with the pond and the viewing area disagree on how to move forward. Friends of Julie Partansky want to incorporate an art piece in the viewing area. Friends of Northstar Pond want the city to rebuild the area, then discuss artwork. Representatives of both groups were unavailable for comment by deadline.
City insurance will only pay for repairs and building code upgrades, Helweg said, but she didn’t rule out a combination of private and public money that could be used to rebuild the area and pay for an art project.
The fire was reported 5:37 a.m. on April 24. It was under control within a half-hour, but by that time the area had been damaged so much that it was closed to the public. One neighbor told the Fire Department that flames shot above the tree line while the platform was on fire.
At the time, Fire Marshal Tim Annis was quoted as saying the area would cost an estimated $150,000 to replace. The viewing area was built in 2012 and dedicated in Partansky’s memory; the structure had reopened last year with $30,000 in improvements.
Fire officials at the time were investigating whether the blaze had any relation to a fire March 23 at the Central Park oak tree benches.The city is also getting bids from contractors on that project and plans to use insurance money. The police detective in charge of investigating the fires did not return a phone call by deadline.
Partansky served on the City Council from 1992-2000, was mayor from 1998-2000 and died in 2009. Her notable deeds in city government were helping to implement the city’s dark sky ordinance and ordering the construction of the world-famous toad tunnel — or infamous, as officials in other California cities often use it as a punchline for environmental overreach.
At the entrance to the Northstar Pond viewing area, a 10-foot-wide chain link fence guards a narrow wooden causeway reaching out to the pond.
A raised information panel sits off to the side, telling readers about Partansky’s whimsical art and ideas.
“Look closely and you will find frogs, stars, question marks, trilobite fossils and colorful tiles with some of the pieces in the mosaic work made by Julie herself,” it said.
Shortly after the fire, then-Mayor Joe Krovoza vowed that the city and community would rebuild the area.
“This is a terrible and senseless loss, made all the more painful because Julie was one of our most caring leaders who respected all,” he said.
— Reach Dave Ryan at [email protected] or call 530-747-8057. Follow him on Twitter at @davewritesnews.