Julie McDonald Commentary: Cemetery Property Sold, Airport on Shortlist


A Jackson Prairie resident who wanted to buy the land where his great-grandfather and others were buried proved unsuccessful during a foreclosure auction Thursday.

Rich Curtis, whose great-grandfather Henry Lucas is buried in the historic Jackson Cemetery at 233 N. Prairie Road, said he bid in the county’s timed auction, but it ended with another bidder on top.

The property sold to Trestine LLC of Chehalis, according to Laura Rider, collection deputy with the Lewis County Treasurer’s Office. Trestine, incorporated in October 2002, is owned by Mark J. and Lorie Spogen of Chehalis. They also work for Jorgensen Timber of Chehalis, Mark Spogen as operations manager and Lorie Spogen as manager. Lorie Spogen, a lifelong Chehalis resident and real estate owner, was appointed to the Lewis County Planning Commission in June 2017.

I called the Spogens Friday and left a message asking about their plans for the cemetery property but didn’t hear back before deadline.

Curtis said he hopes the new owners will respect the graves of the eight or so people buried in the historic cemetery, including the founder of Chehalis, Schuyler Saunders, who died at the Jackson House in February 1861, and two sons of Matilda Koontz Jackson. In recent years, only two headstones remained: those for 14-year-old Felix Grundy Koontz, who died in December 1855, and his other brother, 18-year-old Henry Koontz, who died in June 1857. The others had been vandalized over the years.

Curtis said the state offers grants to restore historic cemeteries, and he had hoped to apply for one to preserve the Jackson Cemetery. But any such restoration would depend on cooperation of the new property owners. 

I hope somebody preserves the cemetery so the people buried there can rest in peace.


Toledo Airport Expansion

In December 2020, the state Commercial Aviation Coordinating Commission (CACC) submitted a report updating state lawmakers on its progress in finding a new primary commercial airport to alleviate congestion at Seattle-Tacoma International.

That report narrowed the preliminary list of future potential major airports to six, including the South Lewis County Regional Airport at Toledo. The others are Arlington Municipal Airport, Bremerton National Airport, Paine Field (Snohomish County Airport), Sanderson Field Airport (Shelton), and Tacoma Narrows Airport (Gig Harbor). 

When news first broke last summer that Toledo was being considered for the site of a new Sea-Tac 2, Lewis County commissioners downplayed the notion, saying they submitted the Ed Carlson Memorial Field only to improve chances of obtaining federal and state grants for improvements. 

Lewis County Commissioner Gary Stamper insisted Lewis County had zero chance of landing a commercial airport.

But today we’re a step closer to seeing jets flying into our little airport, thanks to our county commissioners.

“The strength of our community is its beauty and rural quiet,” said Joseph Martin of Toledo. “People do not move here or stay here with the future prospect of living with cargo jets landing low overhead 24 hours a day.”

In a call to Stamper, he noted that commissioners put South Lewis County on the list for consideration without asking local residents and asked him to pull the airport from consideration.

“I reminded him that the longer they let this process proceed, the more difficult it will be to stop it,” Martin said.

In October, local residents formed the Citizens for Responsible Aviation in Toledo (CRAT) and listed CRAT’s mission as advocating for the development of a self-sufficient airport while maintaining the current airport footprint. 

Without expanding the runway, it’s unlikely air cargo and larger jets could use the airport. 

CRAT’s vision statement is “to protect our natural environment while partnering with Lewis County on airport-related decisions affecting citizens in communities throughout the region.”

Johanna Jones, who lives on Schoolhouse Lane at the northeast end of the airport, said she moved to Toledo for the rural lifestyle.

“We did not expect our commissioners to be complicit in ruining it by offering the Toledo airport up for possible expansion,” she said. 

A balance is needed between economic growth and quality of life. She noted expansion of Toledo’s airport for cargo or commercial aircraft would negatively affect neighboring communities because 737s descend for final approach 25 miles out.

“It is the commissioners’ duty to safeguard the citizens of this county and protect them from potential loss of their homes and the ruination of property, which they can still do by simply removing their sponsorship of the Toledo airport for expansion,” Jones said.

Notice the lack of airports on the list from Pierce and Thurston Counties? That’s because officials there won’t sponsor such expansions.

“Olympia Regional Airport and McChord Field also possess potential for additional capacity, but both lack sponsor support,” the CACC  report states, adding that sponsorship from a public agency or operator is a key requirement for siting and expanding an airport.

“To date, Lewis County, and Ports of Shelton and Bremerton have expressed interest in discussing potential capacity improvements while Pierce and Thurston Counties and the Port of Olympia have indicated they are not interested in adding air service and air cargo capacity within their areas.”

As Martin and Jones requested, Lewis County commissioners could pull their sponsorship of the Toledo airport from consideration, but when I posed that question to our three commissioners — Stamper and the two newcomers, Lindsey Pollock and Sean Swope — nobody responded.

The next CACC meeting is a virtual webinar on federal and state funding at 9 a.m. Feb. 16. The link to the meeting is http://bit.ly/CACCFEB16 and the next official CACC meeting will take place in the spring.

The CACC’s final recommendation to state legislators is due in 2024.


Julie McDonald, a personal historian from Toledo, may be reached at memoirs@chaptersoflife.com