OLYMPIA - State Rep. Brian Blake helped marshal support in the Legislature this year for what the Aberdeen lawmaker calls "a very significant investment in the upcoming bicentennial of the Lewis and Clark expedition."

The 2003-2005 capital budget is on the governor's desk - and Blake said he expects the legislation will soon be signed into law.

"This new capital budget includes a good level of funding for activities to maximize our Lewis and Clark bicentennial," he explained.

Blake is one of the Democratic members of the House Capital Budget Committee that originally reviewed these and other construction proposals.

State Rep. Brian Hatfield, D-Raymond, said that coastal and Southwest Washington receive many thousands of tourists: "historians, history buffs and just plain interested families drawn by the 200th anniversary of the famous expedition.

"People from everywhere are making our home region their destination," Hatfield said. "This is a great opportunity for our local economy."

The new capital budget includes money to potentially help fund construction of parking and elevator facilities for the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center at Fort Canby State Park.

"This project would upgrade the upper and lower parking lots and install a system to transport visitors up to the Interpretive Center facilities," Blake said.

Other capital-budget projects at Fort Canby include:

• Replace dilapidated concession store and inadequate park office at the entrance.

• Renovate Colbert House to repair or replace porch elements, mend porch-roof drainage, fix deteriorated windows, and prepare a cyclical-maintenance plan.

• Restore North Head Lighthouse.

• Acquire RealVest Corp.'s Seaview Dunes-area property (as it becomes available) just north of Fort Canby. The goal is to prevent development from hurting the viewing area - one of the last undeveloped portions of the Peninsula.

Nor far from Fort Canby, in Ilwaco, the capital budget has funding help for the Ilwaco Heritage Foundation. Funds will go toward constructing a new office wing, renovating the main museum interior, covering the museum courtyard, and installing an historic railcar.

Up the coast, in Grayland, Hatfield said the budget has money for the first phase of campground expansion and construction. Forty-two new trailer-hookup sites will be funded, as well as 10 new yurt sites, 10 new walk-in tent sites, a new contact station, two new comfort stations, a new trailer-dump station, and an expanded sewer system.

At Grayland Beach, the budget also includes money to help campground development. This construction project will double camping capacity at Grayland Beach State Park by adding 60 utility campsites, including 10 sites with yurts. Extensive roadwork in the area is also planned.

For the South Beach area, there is capital-budget money for design and permits for renovating Twin Harbors Westside Campground. The redesign includes leveling and raising the campsites and the road above flood level.

Hatfield pointed out that the capital budget has financial help for renovating the St. James Family Center, a regional family-support facility in Cathlamet.

Money is included in the capital budget to help construction of a museum to serve as a learning center, exhibit space, and storage facility for the World Kite Museum and Hall of Fame in Long Beach, and construction of the Willapa Harbor Skate Park in Raymond.

Blake was recently selected to serve on the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Advisory Committee.

"Pacific County folks have been working for many years to celebrate and commemorate their legacy as the destination of the Lewis and Clark expedition," he said. "I know that this bicentennial will bring - is already bringing - huge tourism to our entire region."

The Pacific County Friends of Lewis and Clark organization has established an annual program called "Ocian in View." People from everywhere come to Ilwaco, Long Beach and other communities in the region to explore and investigate the Lewis and Clark heritage that residents of Southwest Washington celebrate.

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