FORT COLUMBIA - The public got its first look at a draft study of a proposed expansion of Fort Clatsop National Memorial in Oregon to include three historic sites in Washington state last Wednesday.
Hosted by the sponsors of the expansion act - National Park Service, the Washington State Historical Society, Parks and Recreation Commission and Department of Transportation and Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, an open house and workshop meeting allowed local citizens to see and comment on the draft boundary study and environmental study of Lewis and Clark sites on the Lower Columbia River.
On July 24, U.S. Rep. Brian Baird's office said the significant Lewis and Clark sites in Pacific County "came one step closer to national recognition today with the National Park Service's release of a study on Fort Clatsop Memorial expansion. The study, authorized through legislation, introduced by U.S. Reps. Brian Baird and David Wu, outlines the feasibility of expanding Fort Clatsop National Memorial to include and co-ordinate with sites on the Washington side of the Columbia River. The Washington sites under consideration are Fort Canby, Station Camp and the Megler Safety Rest Area.
"It is important to have national recognition for Lewis and Clark sites on the Washington side of the river," Baird said last month. "Associating our sites with the NPS will help promote our local economy through tourism and honor our historical heritage. Including these sites in the Fort Clatsop Memorial will put them on the bicentennial map and help our local communities prepare for the upcoming celebration."
The expansion act "directs the Secretary of the Interior to conduct a study of the area near McGowan, Wash., where the Lewis and Clark Expedition first camped after reaching the Pacific Ocean, known as the 'Station Camp' site, as well as the Megler Rest Area and Fort Canby State Park for possible inclusion in the Fort Clatsop National Memorial," according to an NPS statement.
Last week, Chip Jenkins, superintendent of Fort Clatsop National Memorial, told people at the meeting at the Fort Columbia Theater that the public participation process "is what makes our country unique. We're here to hear what people have to say and to listen."
David Nicandri, director of the Washington State Historical Society, said the meeting was to draw input from the public as to "where we go from here with the Lewis and Clark story on the Lower Columbia River."
Nicandri introduced Keith Dunbar, NPS chief of planning for the Columbia Cascades Support Office, who gave an overview of the study beginning a year ago when President Bush "signed legislation allowing expansion of Fort Clatsop. We want to know what you like and what you don't like about the four alternatives in the draft study," he said. "Changes will be based on written and public comment."
Dunbar explained that none of the agencies involved can implement the plan unilaterally.
"It takes an act of Congress to allow the additions to Fort Clatsop," he said.
The final version should be on the desk of Secretary of Interior Gale Norton by the end of September and in Congress for consideration by Oct. 1, he said.
During last week's meeting, Chad Weiser of Otak Inc., outlined the three sites in Washington - Megler, the site of the expedition's "Dismal Nitch," which will include land northwest of the current rest area owned by Cathlamet Timber Co.; Station Camp, "known as the end of the voyage," he said; and Fort Canby, "the site of the expedition's first physical contact with the Pacific Ocean."
The four alternatives outlined in the draft study follow:
Alternative A - No action. Current site management continues.
Alternative B - Lewis and Clark Washington State Park Sites. A Washington State Park-focused management alternative. Dismal Nitch, at the Megler Rest Area, and Station Camp managed by Parks. Station Camp expanded through a partnership led by the state's historical society with no change of management for Fort Canby State Park and no expansion of Fort Clatsop.
Alternative C - Expansion of Fort Clatsop and Washington State Park sites. A collaboration of state and federal management with Fort Clatsop expanded to include Station Camp and a Thomas Jefferson National Memorial on federal land within Fort Canby. Improvements to Station Camp completed by the state, then transferred to the National Park Service. Dismal Nitch managed by State Parks.
Alternative D - Lewis and Clark National and State Historical Parks. A comprehensive and collaborative approach to all Lewis and Clark historic sites in Oregon and Washington. This alternative would expand Fort Clatsop to include Station Camp, Clark's Dismal Nitch and the Jefferson National Memorial. The entire NPS unit's name would be changed to Lewis and Clark National and State Historic Parks. Legislation would create a relationship between NPS, Washington State Parks and Oregon State Parks at Fort Stevens and Ecola state parks to interpret and preserve sites associated with the expedition.
Based on data gathered and public input, NPS will select an alternative, possibly combining elements of B through D. The comments from the public will be summarized before the final study is completed.
The state has secured $7.7 million for projects related to the study, including construction of improvements to the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center at Fort Canby and to Station Camp, all scheduled to be competed by November 2005.
Written public comments on the plan are due by Aug. 30 and should be sent to:
Attn: Feasibility Study
Fort Clatsop National Memorial
92343 Fort Clatsop Road
Astoria OR 97103
(503) 861-2585 FAX
The draft study will be available for public review and comment through Aug. 30. The draft study and news releases will be on the Fort Clatsop National Memorial webpage at (www.nps.gov/focl).