Nation Parks director: 'This will be a destination'

<I>DAMIAN MULINIX photo</I><BR>Lewis and Clark reinactor Bob Zimmerling of Gearhart sits with dog Dolly - who was herself reinacting as Clark's dog, 'Seaman' - during the National Park dedication ceremony at Cape Disappointment's Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center last Friday.

CAPE D - Despite all the hoopla surrounding Friday's official dedication of the new Lewis and Clark National and State Historical Parks, Chip Jenkins said he'll be most excited when he can come back in 20 years with his now-5-year-old son, when he can fully appreciate the legacy of what was accomplished last week.

"Today is about 10 percent - the other 90 percent is what the future holds for us," he said.

The former Fort Clatsop National Memorial superintendent now heads a new two-state, multi-site park that tells the complete story of the Corps of Discovery's arrival at the Pacific Ocean in November 1805 and its 4-1/2 month stay at the mouth of the Columbia River.

Approved by Congress earlier this year and signed by President Bush last month, the legislation creating the new park expands tiny Fort Clatsop park south of Astoria 10-fold in size and brings in historical sites such as Clark's "Dismal Nitch" and Station Camp on the Washington shore of the Columbia, as well as land for the centerpiece Fort-to-Sea Trail linking the replica winter encampment to the ocean.

The new name also signifies the closer partnerships between the national park and Cape Disappointment and Fort Columbia state parks in Washington and Fort Stevens and Ecola state parks in Oregon in telling the story of the Corps of Discovery's stay on the lower river in the winter of 1805-06.

"We have never brought two state park systems together with national parks to be able to do what we are doing today," said National Park Service Director Fran Mainella, who also announced three federal grants for trail projects in Astoria, Warrenton and Pacific County.

The new park will benefit from the 1 million daily hits received by the Park Service's Web site, and both the name "Lewis and Clark" and "national park" will mean more visitors, both from the United States and abroad, for next year's 200th anniversary commemoration and beyond, Mainella said.

"This will be a destination," she said.

Included on the Washington side will be "Dismal Nitch," located one mile east of the north end of the Astoria Bridge near the Megler rest area. It marks an encampment where the party was marooned on the shore for several days by violent waves and weather in November 1805. Station Camp, two miles west of the bridge, is the spot the party arrived after escaping Dismal Nitch, and is the site where group members officially acknowledged their trip to be completed, and where the party, including Sacagawea and the slave York, voted on where to spend the winter.

The Washington State Historical Society, in partnership with the state transportation department, is pursuing a project at Station Camp that will re-route a one-mile stretch of the highway away from the river shore to provide space for a new park. The highway re-alignment is scheduled to be completed next spring and work on the park to begin in the summer for completion in time for the November Bicentennial event.

Along with the those two sites, the new park includes a yet-to-be designed national monument to Thomas Jefferson planned for a bluff overlooking the mouth of the Columbia River at Cape Disappointment State Park.

Congress is considering a $5 million appropriation for land purchases. The park service estimates another $3 million will be needed to fund the rest of the expansion, including an immediate $350,000 or so for new signs, maps and other information materials.

The new partnership is uncharted territory for the National Park Service and both state parks agencies. But Jenkins said he sees a model for cooperation in the pursuit of the Fort-to-Sea Trail, which has involved the participation of national and state parks, the governor's office, Clatsop County, the Oregon National Guard, the Oregon Department of Transportation, Weyerhaeuser and other private parties.

"A lot of it is just about developing relationships and trust," he said.

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