POWAY, Calif. (KGTV) - The City of Poway is seeking the public's input on how to best preserve the history of the landmark known as the Big Stone Lodge, although the City Council appears to be moving toward demolishing the building.
"There's been a lot of talk about just tearing it down and keeping a pile of rocks," said former Poway Mayor Mary Shepardson, who has been helping lead the effort to turn the site into a park. "That would be like tearing Stonehenge down and keeping a pile of rocks. It's not the same thing."
Shepardson's family has been in Poway for 70 years and used to eat regularly at the lodge's restaurant. She says the area is an important local landmark, first built in 1923 along the stagecoach route into San Diego.
The city bought the property once the business closed and it has fallen into disrepair over the last 20 years. Squatters regularly break in and use the building for illicit activities, according to city officials, creating a health and safety danger.
"The property has really been deteriorating and has become a nuisance," said Director of Development Services Bob Manis.
The City Council is expected to vote in the next few months on whether to demolish the structures. But while the site has been designated for future affordable housing, the council has no timeline for deciding what to ultimately do with the property.
In the meantime, they have directed city staff to identify parts of the Big Stone Lodge building and surrounding property that could be preserved and possibly integrated into future plans.
Manis points to the namesake big stones, which can be seen from the exterior in the building's two chimneys, as well as the numerous old trees surrounding the property, as elements that could be saved and worked into whatever comes next.
Shepardson is one of hundreds of people who supports turning the Big Stone Lodge into a passive park. A petition to do that was created on Change.org by Jessica Johnson, the founder of the popular website "Hidden San Diego." Johnson points to the value of the area for hiking and says any development of the property would be harmful.
"I feel that over the years the city has stopped being respectful to San Diego's heritage and we're just slowly destroying everything of historical value," Johnson said.
A public workshop will be held Thursday night at the council chambers to share preservation ideas.