Call To Action: STOP The Fence At Tule Lake

Over the last year, the Federal Aviation Administration has moved closer to building a fence to protect the airstrip at the site of the Tule Lake Unit of the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument that would destroy the historic character of the site.

The Tule Lake Committee has launched a petition campaign to STOP The Fence At Tule Lake on Change.org and on Facebook.

Barbara Takei of the Tule Lake Committee writes:

The FAA proposes to construct a eight foot high, 16,000 foot long fence to close off the Tule Lake site, to protect the airstrip built on the campsite firebreak road. A “STOP the Fence at Tule Lake” Facebook campaign is being generated by Frank Abe and Lorna Fong; they’ve also started a petition on Change.org to let the chief of the FAA, Michael Huerta, of the opposition to the FAA’s fence proposal.

We need your help. For those of you who use Facebook, please SHARE it with your Facebook friends and urge them to sign the petition at https://www.facebook.com/StopTheFence.

If you don’t use Facebook, please forward the petition on to others in your address book; we want to generate a big response to let the director of the FAA, Michael Huerta, know how important this issue is to Japanese Americans and others who don’t want the history of Japanese Americans to be fenced off and destroyed.

Thanks for your help on this critically important issue.

The following statement by the Manzanar Committee was issued on June 2, 2012 (but not published on our blog until July 6, 2012). It is being re-published to provide background, as well as to reiterate our position on the issue.


A view down one of the streets of the Tule Lake
concentration camp,
November 3, 1942.
Photo: Francis Stewart
Photo courtesy Japanese American Relocation Digital Archives
Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley

LOS ANGELES — On June 2, the Los Angeles-based Manzanar Committee announced its opposition to a proposed perimeter fence at the Tulelake Municipal Airport, operated by the County of Modoc.

The proposed fence would enclose the perimeter of the airport, which was part of the Tule Lake Segregation Center during World War II.

According to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) documents, “…the purpose of this fence is to minimize the potential for aircraft-wildlife strikes (primarily deer), and minimize the potential for pedestrians and vehicles to inadvertently encroach on the airport’s runway (pedestrian-vehicle deviations).”

The site of the Tule Lake Segregation Center is now part of the Tule Lake Segregation Center National Historic Landmark (World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument – Tule Lake Unit), which is located approximately 1,100 feet from the airport.

The FAA, in consultation with the California State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO), and interested parties, will determine whether the perimeter fence project would affect the Tule Lake Segregation Center National Historic Landmark, and whether the Tulelake Municipal Airport property retains sufficient historic integrity to be eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.

The Tule Lake Committee, sponsors of the Tule Lake Pilgrimage, is leading the way in terms of advocating for the preservation of the Tule Lake site. According to their statement, “…The current proposal to erect an eight-foot high, 16,000-foot long fence through the center of the former concentration camp site will effectively divide the site in half and make it inaccessible to Japanese Americans and other interested parties who want to visit the site.”

“Many visitors to the site typically seek the location of the barrack where their family was assigned,” the statement continued. “They want to traverse the site to experience the dimension and magnitude of the place, to gain a sense of the distances family members walked in their daily routine to eat meals, attend school, to do laundry and use the latrines. They want to summon up the ghosts of the place, to revive long-suppressed memories and to mourn personal and collective loss.”

“Presence of a three-mile long fence in the very center of the Tule Lake site will impede such reflection. Rather than being able to traverse the site, visitors would be confronted by a massive, intimidating fence built to let them know they are trespassers who are unwelcome and being warned away.”

Having sponsored the annual Manzanar Pilgrimage for 43 years, and having worked with the National Park Service, and the California SHPO on the creation of the Manzanar National Historic Site, the Manzanar Committee has a unique perspective on this issue.

“The Manzanar Committee has sponsored the annual Manzanar Pilgrimage since 1969, at the site of the former Manzanar concentration camp in California’s Owens Valley, which became the Manzanar National Historic Site in 1992,” said Manzanar Committee Co-Chair Bruce Embrey. “Over 1,300 people participated in an interfaith ceremony, toured the site, and visited the Interpretive Center this past April, during the 43rd Annual Manzanar Pilgrimage.”

“Over the years, we have learned just how important seeing the site is to be able to comprehend and understand the conditions and characteristics of the Manzanar concentration camp,” added Embrey. “Being able to interact with the actual physical landscape, experience the climate first-hand, and see the remnants of the buildings unfettered is absolutely essential to a serious appreciation of what life was like during incarceration at Manzanar, as well as the other American concentration camps, and other confinement sites throughout the United States. This is precisely why the National Park Service and its volunteers conduct walking tours at Manzanar whenever possible, and this is always an integral component of our annual Pilgrimage.”

The Manzanar Committee opposes the construction of the perimeter fence, and fully supports the Tule Lake Committee’s efforts.

“Constructing an imposing physical barrier, such as a eight-foot high fence, would negatively impact the Tule Lake site,” Embrey stressed. “The Manzanar Committee strongly opposes the construction of the proposed perimeter fence, and we offer our unswerving support of the efforts of the Tule Lake Committee in preserving the Tule Lake Segregation Center.”


The Manzanar Committee is dedicated to educating and raising public awareness about the incarceration and violation of civil rights of persons of Japanese ancestry during World War II and to the continuing struggle of all peoples when Constitutional rights are in danger. A non-profit organization that has sponsored the annual Manzanar Pilgrimage since 1969, along with other educational programs, the Manzanar Committee has also played a key role in the establishment and continued development of the Manzanar National Historic Site.

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The above historic photograph of the Tule Lake concentration camp is in the public domain. A large collection of such photographs are available from the Japanese American Relocation Digital Archives, University of California, Berkeley, Bancroft Library.

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Creative Commons License The Manzanar Committee’s Official Blog is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. You may copy, distribute and/or transmit any story or audio content published on this site under the terms of this license, but only if proper attribution is indicated. The full name of the author and a link back to the original article on this site are required. Photographs, graphic images, and other content not specified are subject to additional restrictions. Additional information is available at: Manzanar Committee Official Blog – Licensing and Copyright Information.

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9 Responses to Call To Action: STOP The Fence At Tule Lake

  1. Keith Wood says:

    I flew into and out of that airstrip several months ago.

    As a pilot, who spoke with other pilots there, I can say that such a fence is not only not necessary, but will not achieve the state purpose.

    Just like Executive Order 9066, come to think of it . . .

    The traffic there is all general aviation, there isn’t much of it (Klamath Falls is nearby) and the cost of a fence would be better used in other ways. Moreover, such a fence will make it more difficult for what little transient (tourist) traffic the field gets now, by putting a barrier in place around an unattended airport.

    • B. Takei says:

      Dear Keith Wood,
      Given your experience as an aviator who has flown in and out of the Tulelake airstrip, your point about the airport fence is very pertinent to this issue. Would you PLEASE write to the FAA to make that point about an aviation issue? Thanks.
      The FAA’s contact person is:
      Doug Pomeroy, FAA Environmental Protection Specialist
      San Francisco Airports District Office
      1000 Marina Boulevard, Suite 220
      Brisbane, CA 94005-1835
      Telephone 650 – 827 – 7612
      Email: Douglas.Pomeroy@faa.gov

  2. Concerned Anthropologist says:

    Have you worked with the National Park Service to designate the site a Traditional Cultural Property (TCP)? What you’re stating is that the fence interferes with an established traditional cultural use of the area (mainly pilgramages and personal reflection). It may not have a demonstrable adverse effect on the property if it was determined eligible under certain criteria but it seems you have a very strong adverse effect argument if it is a TCP.
    If the NPS will not work with you, and I assume the FAA is not interested, you can start this kind of process on your own with the right cultural resource consultants. I tried to find the FAA’s section 106 consultation on the web but the links are broken, so excuse my ignorance of what might have already been accomplished.

    http://www.nps.gov/nr/publications/bulletins/nrb38/

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