Report to the President:
Japanese-American Internment Sites Preservation
Background: Topaz Relocation Center, located in west central Utah just north of the modern town of Delta, Utah, was one of ten sites across America used for the internment of approximately 9,000 Japanese-Americans during WWII.
Local citizens pushed for the development of Topaz Relocation Center. Young men in Millard County were being drafted into the war effort, which produced a shortage of people to work the fields. Citizens of Millard County thought that the addition of the Japanese internment camp in Millard County would provide the necessary labor force to sustain their agricultural production, and pushed for the development of an internment camp in Millard County. In 1942, the Topaz Relocation Center was completed.
The camp was designed to be self-sufficient. The camp provided its own sustenance with the development of a pig farm, a chicken farm, and a cattle ranch. At the time, the Relocation Center was the fifth largest city in Utah. To date, several of these structures are in good condition, most notably the farm worker's dining hall. Signatures of some of the internees are found within several of these structures. All of these structures are on privately held lands.
Current Status/Interpretation: Within the actual Topaz townsite, roads, foundational elements, the sewer system, and domestic and industrial trash is all that remains. After the dissolution of the camp in 1945, structures were sold and removed. Many of these structures still exist throughout the county and have been incorporated into houses, storage sheds and barns. Currently, a portion of the dining hall is located on the Delta High School lands and the school board wants the structure moved. The Topaz Preservation Board (TPB) is interested in the protection of this structure. Inadequate funding and the issue of where to relocate the structure loom on the horizon. A restored house owned by the TPB is currently being housed at the Great Basin Museum in Delta, Utah. The Topaz Relocation Center was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.
The majority of the townsite is privately held. The TPB owns 415 acres of the original 640 acres of the townsite. Several other private individuals own the rest. Of note, five modern houses are built on the townsite lands. Current plans by one of the individuals include the further development of an additional 38 acres. Federal ownership includes several large dump sites, guard tower foundations, and the sewer plant. These sites are located on the western boundary of the original townsite.
Currently, the TPB is the recipient of a Getty Foundation Grant, being utilized in the development of a preservation plan for the site. Furthermore, the TPB has begun to acquire funding for a museum, but lacks the funds necessary for the completion of construction and development.
Current and immediate needs at the site include the acquisition of key private parcels associated with the Topaz Relocation Center to impede the potential for further private development. In addition, funding is needed by TPB for the purchase, relocation, and restoration of the dining hall. Current needs also include assistance in the development of a museum for the curation of Topaz artifacts. Any land acquired for a museum site should include enough land to house the dining hall and restored house. Interpretative brochures and roadside interpretative signage should be developed. Fencing of the site could provide some measure of protection.
Management Authorities and Practices: Public lands associated with Topaz Relocation Center are managed under the authority of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA, 43 U.S.C. 1701 et seq.). Additional authority and responsibility to manage cultural resources found on public land derives from Sections 106 and 110 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA, 16 U.S.C. 470 et seq.). BLM management of these lands has been fairly limited in practice, and has involved authorizing appropriate use of lands in the area.
Regional Context: Topaz is very close to the town of Delta, with a population of some 3,000 people. Topaz Relocation Center lies within Millard County, sparsely populated with approximately 12,000 people. BLM's Little Sahara Recreation Area, an off highway vehicle play area with camping, lies one hour or less to the north. BLM land holdings in the vicinity of Topaz and Delta are fairly limited, but are otherwise extensive throughout the county.
Interested Parties/Stakeholders and Opinions:
Jane Beckwith (Topaz Preservation Board)
Ted Nagata (Topaz Preservation Board)
Merv Williams (Private Land Owner on Townsite)
Roger Roper (Utah Division of State History: Historic Preservation)
Future Consultations: BLM will remain in contact with interested parties and stakeholders.
The BLM supports the TPB having the lead. BLM would work in cooperation with the Board to determine how the public land parcels could be managed to complement management of the privately held Relocation Center parcels. The BLM will also coordinate with the Board, the State Historic Preservation Officer and the National Park Service to determine whether the site possesses qualities which would render it eligible for a National Historic Landmark designation.
Contact: Ms. Pat Fosse, Assistant Field Manager, Fillmore Field Office (435) 743-3100