FORT CANBY - A major renovation of one of the area's most heavily visited attractions, the Fort Canby State Park Interpretive Center, now is well underway and is expected to transform the facility in to a world-class interpretive center.
"We're closing in on 30 years since the interpretive center was constructed," said Daniel Farber, a State Parks parks planner who works out of State Parks headquarters in Olympia. "With this renovation we hope to increase the number of repeat visitors each year, making this one of the places you'll want to take out-of-town visitors."
At this time the center is closed to the public, but it will reopen on Oct. 21 after being closed since Sept. 30. Even though the facility will reopen, the work will continue all through the winter and right up until the renovated center's dedication on Memorial Day 2003.
The renovation currently taking place will add almost 7,000 additional square feet to the existing facility.
A part of the renovation of the structure is to make it more accessible to people with disabilities, since the facility previously didn't meet Americans with Disabilities Act standards.
Another major portion of the renovation is updating current exhibits and creating new ones, particularly ones which will give visitors a better idea of what the Lewis and Clark Trail means to the mouth of the Columbia area.
"Now what we are doing is focusing on detail to the Columbia water shed and in particular the mouth of the Columbia's part of the Lewis and Clark story," said State Parks Interpretive Specialist at Fort Canby Ryan Karlson. "It's going to be a great experience, because we are going to make it more interactive instead of narrative. We're shooting for a class-A, world-class interpretive facility."
Other improvements to the interpretive center will include outside exhibits, roadway and parking improvements as well as utility improvements.
According to Farber, because the Fort Canby Interpretive Center was constructed in 1975, State Parks already has a jump on what other states affiliated with the trail are now doing. An example of this jump can be seen when looking at the center's visitors each year, estimated at 70,000. This number is expected to double during the Lewis and Clark Trail Bicentennial, which will be celebrated between 2003 and 2006.
Renovation on the interpretive center began in January and by the time it is completed next spring, it will have cost State Parks an estimated $3 million.
"In the end, the communities, especially Ilwaco, as well as Long Beach also stand to benefit in light of the Discovery Trail," said Karlson.
According to Long Beach City Administrator Nabiel Shawa, the Discovery Trail is the city of Long Beach's premiere Lewis and Clark Trail Bicentennial project. It is expected to be completed next spring, and dedicated on Memorial Day 2003.