PAGE – The John Wesley Powell Museum hit a setback last week when the sewer system backed up and flooded most of the museum. The museum is closed indefinitely.
The timing is truly unfortunate because the museum is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, along with the 150th anniversary of the first John Wesley Powell expedition.
Visitors and Page residents can still obtain visitor information from other venues including Glen Canyon Conservancy’s flagship store next door, the Page-Lake Powell Chamber of Commerce, and at the Carl Hayden Visitor Center at Glen Canyon Dam.
According to Martin Stamat, the director at the conservancy, which manages the museum, plans were already in place to remodel the museum. The flood simply moved the timing for the planned remodeling to happen sooner than expected.
A visitor alerted the staff on June 11 that one of the toilets was overflowing. A short time later, another visitor noticed water spreading in the carpeted areas of the museum. The museum then closed a short while later and all non-essential staff were sent home. The water level continued to rise reaching ankle deep in parts of the museum, said Stamat.
Fortunately, not much damage occurred to the exhibits or merchandise. Some of the exhibit cases though were slightly damaged. Five of the existing exhibits were affected and will have to be redone.
Damaged wallboard and carpet have already been removed as of June 18 and prevention and mitigation of mold is underway.
The conservancy is planning on placing existing employees at other conservancy-managed stores. including those at the Carl Hayden Visitor Center, Paria Contact Station, and at the Navajo Bridge Interpretive Center. Employees and volunteers will also help take down exhibits.
The conservancy just hired a curator who now has a rare and unique opportunity to be directly involved in the planning, design, and the construction of the remodeled facility.
The museum used to house the concrete testing lab while the Glen Canyon Dam was being built. Fifty years ago, it became the museum and has since become a local institution – popular with local residents and visitors alike.
The modern-day requirement for a backflow prevention valve for the sewage system was not required back then and would have prevented the sewer backup. In the remodel, the plumbing will be brought up to current code.
The conservancy is working closely and with Page Utility Enterprises. Stamat says that PUE, especially Brian Hill has been very good to work with. The conservancy has also filed a claim with their insurance company.
Because this is the busy season for construction contractors, local contractors are busy and any construction work to remodel and correct the problems may not happen for a month or more. As a result, the museum is closed until further notice since the completion date for renovations had not been announced at press time.
The conservancy welcomes donations of volunteer labor, funding and materials. Those interested in donating should contact Martin Stamat at 928-640-3900.
Stamat considers this mishap a hidden blessing, saying that “this is an opportunity to turn an unfortunate series of events to improve our community institution.”
The conservancy flagship store is open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and houses an outstanding, historic and detailed three-dimensional map of the Colorado Plateau.