Raccoon Lodge gets options for preservation

Artist has until Dec. 30 to decide piece’s future

PORT TOWNSEND — The builder of an art piece in Port Townsend dubbed the “Raccoon Lodge” has been given until Dec. 30 to decide what to do with the structure, which city officials say needs to comply with building codes.

The City of Port Townsend sent the work’s creator — retired carpenter and professional singer Kevin Mason, known locally as the lead singer for Kevin and the PT All Stars — a set of options for ways the piece can be brought into compliance, but speaking to the Peninsula Daily News, Mason said Wednesday he was cautiously optimistic the piece could remain.

“I think it may be a light in the end of the tunnel,” Mason said following a meeting with city officials about other structures on his property. “I’m feeling optimistic.”

The Raccoon Lodge is a house-like structure affixed to the front of the stump of what was once reportedly the largest Monterey Cypress tree in the state of Washington.

City officials became aware of the Raccoon Lodge after they were called to the property to inspect other structures on Mason’s property which were reported to the city by one of Mason’s neighbors, he said.

The tree stump abuts the public sidewalk on Clay Street and is partially in the public right-of-way.

In October, city officials sent Mason a letter informing him the structure would need to be brought into compliance with the city’s building codes or taken down by Nov. 30.

Later, officials extended the deadline to Dec. 30.

Members of the public rallied in support of Mason and the Raccoon Lodge. More than 100 people showed up at a gathering in front of the tree on Nov. 12.

A petition was filed on the website Change.org at https://www.change.org/p/support-our-local-artist-kevin-mason-and-his-tree-stump-art-the-raccoon-lodge. As of Wednesday, 2,846 people had signed it.

City officials have expressed concerns about the integrity of the structure and the stump it’s attached to. In addition to structural concerns, art pieces in the public right of way must be insured and managed either by the city or an organization, according to city officials.

The city met with Mason on Nov. 18 and issued a request for voluntary compliance with five options for various ways in which the structure can be brought up to code.

City Manager John Mauro said Tuesday the city has given Mason until Dec. 30 to decide which option he wishes to pursue, but no physical action needs to happen to the structure yet.

Mauro said city officials have exercised a high degree of creativity in trying to find ways to preserve the structure.

“This is not a usual circumstance,” Mauro said. “We’re part of that community and we’re trying to have a creative, collaborative approach that is very open to a number of pathways forwards.”

Options suggested by the city involve obtaining building permits and an engineering report and Mason said he’s had several people, including professional engineers, offer to help bring the Raccoon Lodge into code.

But Mason was emphatic that he was not seeking monetary gain and would not personally pursue a fundraising effort. If members of the public were to raise funds to protect the Raccoon Lodge, Mason said he wanted no money for himself.

“As long as it didn’t say that it was giving me one nickel, or the inference that I would get one nickel,” Mason said of possible fundraising efforts by the community.

“I don’t want to be any money to me. I don’t want the appearance that Kevin Mason is getting money for this. I gave that art piece to the city for free.”

Mason, 75, said he started building the structure as a way to relax following cancer treatments, which he said Wednesday were still ongoing. But Mason has said the stress of the situation is causing other health problems, specifically high blood pressure.

Mason said he previously felt that removing the structure was the only feasible option, but Wednesday afternoon he was more hopeful that the lodge might be preserved.

“I do want to be able to let this live because of such a wonderful outpouring of support,” Mason said.

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Reporter Peter Segall can be reached at peter.segall@peninsuladailynews.com.

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