L&C NATIONAL PARK - Adopting the Class of 2016 is one of three proposals the Lewis and Clark National Historical Park selected to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service in 2016.

National Park Service Director Mary Bomar and Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne announced this decision at a press conference in Yosemite National Park last week.

A plan to enhance living history at Lewis and Clark National Historical Park, along with the first phase of restoration of wetlands at Otter Point along the Lewis and Clark River in Clatsop County, were also named for funding consideration under the NPS Centennial Challenge.

The Pacific-Clatsop county projects are part of a list of 201 proposals nationwide.

The Centennial Initiative is an effort to invest $3 billion in U.S. national parks during the next decade. One-third of the initiative - $1 billion - is a request to U.S. Congress for 10 years of federal funding to strengthen basic park operations. Congress has responded to this request by including the first $100 million in the fiscal 2008 budget that awaits final passage.

The remainder of the Centennial Initiative - $2 billion - is a proposed, public-private vehicle called the Centennial Challenge. According to Bomar, the Centennial Challenge would allow the National Park Service, over the next decade, to match up to $100 million a year from partners with $100 million a year in federal funds. These funds would be for new programs and projects. Congressional legislation to create a public-private Centennial Challenge is pending. It is anticipated that additional projects can be proposed and funded in subsequent years leading to the NPS centennial in 2016.

"The National Park Service has, after a rigorous review, certified these proposals as eligible for centennial challenge matching funds," Bomar said. "And they are ready to go in fiscal year 2008 which begins Oct. 1." Nearly $370 million of proposals made the eligibility list.

Each of the selected projects has matching funding support from park partners, part of the Centennial Initiative criteria.

"The contributions and willingness of our partners to get involved in these great projects is a real asset to the park, we look forward to working with all of them to make these efforts a success," said Scott Stonum, acting superintendent at Lewis and Clark National Historical Park.

Adopting the Class of 2016: Students to Stewards will bring local students in the Class of 2016 to the park, and create a foundation for adopting future classes. Beginning this fall, and continuing until their graduation in 2016, fourth-graders from diverse nationalities and backgrounds and representing rural schools in Washington and Oregon will participate in learning activities at the park annually. Programs include river, forest and watershed conservation; Native American cultural activities; trail recreation, camping and wilderness skills practice; park career investigation and service learning. Each will become a National Park Service Junior Ranger. The Lewis and Clark National Park Association is the partner for the project.

"We are thrilled to have more opportunities to connect local children to the park, and to the stories of our region," said Cathy Peterson, education program coordinator. "We will employ the park as an outdoor classroom, and look forward to making park friends for life."

Living history programs at the park, offered through the Pacific Northwest Living Historians, will benefit from increased recruitment, training and marketing. The organization is a program of Destination: The Pacific.

"The living historians connect people to our heritage through a personal and engaging program," said Cyndi Mudge, executive director for Destination: The Pacific, partner to the project. "Being listed as one of the Centennial Initiative proposals will help us to expand these programs to include the new Park boundaries and the shared heritage the park units have with the Columbia Pacific region."

David Szymanski, the incoming Lewis and Clark National Historical Park superintendent, called the news "just the beginning."

"I am very proud of the work that our park staff and our partners did to put these projects together," said Szymanski, who will start work at the park Oct. 1. "The Adopt the Class of 2016 project has been praised nationwide by our director and leaders as a great example of what the centennial should be about.

"Between now and 2016, we have great opportunities. Giving the track record of this community and this park, I am confident that we have nine years of great projects ahead of us. In coming years, we would like to give special attention to the new sites managed by our state partners in Washington and Oregon."

"When history is written," Bomar said, "the Centennial Initiative will be second only to the creation of the national park system itself."

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