That may soon be a moot point. ELF, which in 1990 burned down a $12 million Colorado ski resort, claimed responsibility for destroying a Forest Service research station in Pennsylvania this summer. And, in a shivery change of attitude that no one at the center has failed to note, the ELF has promised that it "will no longer hesitate to pick up the gun" in future actions.
Bradshaw says he could have predicted this. "Ultimately, the decisions that the ELF are trying to influence are not made at all by people like me. They're made by politicians and voters. The idea that burning out my lab can somehow set back forestry on a commercial scale just shows an incredible lack of understanding about how the world works. They almost never target the 'right' thing, and it never, as far as I know, has the desired effect. That's why I think you see an escalation in the level of violence in their rhetoric."
Hinckley sees a parallel between the ELF and those who bomb abortion clinics. "First you picket, then you bomb, then you start shooting people," he says. He's not particularly frightened for himself. "But I'm concerned about some people who have been identified by this group."
Bradshaw shrugs off concerns for his personal safety. "I'm just not the worrying kind," he says. "There are much bigger things in the world to worry about." Although the University has taken reasonable precautions, Bradshaw says, the cost of absolute security would be too dear. "I would never want to adopt a fortress mentality," he says. "That's just antithetical to how public universities should treat the citizens of their state."
The decision to rebuild the center was made quickly, although working out the details has been an ordeal. The Washington Legislature promptly allocated $4.1 million toward replacing Merrill Hall, but it was soon apparent that that would not be enough. Eventually the University procured an additional $1.3 million, enough to construct a new building of the same size on the old foundation.
In a sense, the new building will be smaller, however, since wider hallways, an elevator, and other factors to bring it up to code will reduce usable space by about 600 square feet.
Rebuilding has presented an opportunity to rethink the design, as well. The new Merrill Hall will showcase sustainable features for demonstration and teaching. All the outreach functions, such as the library, the Master Gardeners clinic and the herbarium, will be clustered together. Private donations and special efforts-such as the sale of personalized leaf-patterned floor tiles-are helping make the new Merrill Hall a place that can better accommodate use by the public. Reconstruction is optimistically slated to begin next spring, with completion by May 2004, the three-year anniversary of the fire. For more about the rebuilding efforts or to make a donation, visit the center's Web site at www.urbanhort.org.