Group pushes to save Pasco Naval Air Station tower

The World War II-era air traffic control tower in Pasco has seen better days.

Rain water has stained the wood floor, causing it to sag slightly when walked on. Spiderwebs decorate corners and debris litters some of the floor. A ceiling tile hangs precariously overhead.

But the water has stopped running down a wall inside the tower since Port of Pasco commissioners agreed to fix the siding and roof.

Commissioners are considering what's needed next so they can rent out space in the historic Pasco Naval Air Station tower. They toured the building Thursday with members of a new nonprofit that's trying to preserve the historic structure.

The roof and siding repairs were finished in spring 2012, said Malin Bergstrom, president of Pasco's Bergstrom Aircraft, who is spearheading the effort to preserve the tower that her family's business used for about 30 years.

The Pacific Northwest Aviation Museum and Historical Association and the port are in the midst of lease negotiations for the tower space. And Bergstrom said a lease is needed before more donations will come in.

The association, known as the Save the Old Tower group, wants to raise $70,000 or more to renovate the tower.

The space the group hopes to rent is vacant, but there are two tenants in the building attached to the old tower.

Bergstrom, wearing a "Save the Old Navy tower" T-shirt, told commissioners that she envisions the first floor as a museum highlighting the history of the tower, Air Mail service and the women who served there during World War II.

The tower was used for five years as a training for the Navy after opening in 1941. Then, Bergstrom said, it became the terminal for the airport until 1966, when the current terminal was built.

The tower is behind the fence, where it is not readily accessible to the public. But, she said, people could be brought in to tour the tower and museum through Bergstrom Aircraft. They would check in, get name tags and be taken by a guide onto the tarmac and into the building.

Windows stretch from ceiling to knee-height along a wall on the second floor of the tower, giving a view of the tarmac of the airport and planes.

"The Tri-Cities needs an aviation museum," Bergstrom said. "It's something that would really benefit the community."

Bergstrom said she's gotten offers from contractors willing to help with the project.

And Keyna Collingham, 17, a junior at River's Edge High School, is eager to make restoring the tower his Eagle Scout project. But Keyna, who takes flight lessons at Bergstrom Aircraft, said there isn't much he can do until the lease is worked out between the nonprofit and the port.

For more information or to donate, visit Bergstrom Aircraft at the Tri-Cities Airport, send donations to Save the Old NAS Pasco Tower, c/o Bergstrom Aircraft, Inc. 4102 N. Stearman Ave. Pasco, WA 99301.Or visit savetheoldtower.com or email malin@bergstromaircraft.com.