McGowan family heirs agree to sell site; U.S. Senate could act at any time

STATION CAMP - An option agreement between the state and the owners of the property slated as a possible national park at the Station Camp site at McGowan was signed last week.

The agreement legally binds all parties involved and, "We anticipate a sale agreement in the near future," according to Bill Garvin, a member of the family that has owned the property at the site for generations.

"The important thing is that our perseverance paid off," Garvin said. "A lot of people are responsible. From a family perspective, we're feeling good about the agreement and where we're going from here."

David Nicandri, director of the Washington State History Museum, said he "echoes Bill's sentiments. It took a while to get here, and I'm delighted to have made the agreement on the property and look forward to moving to a stage where we can start making the vision real."

The seven-acre commemorative park at Station Camp, along with Dismal Nitch at the Megler Rest Area and part of Cape Disappointment State Park, could become part of the first bi-state national park if the Fort Clatsop Expansion Act is approved by President Bush.

The park will include relocation of Highway 101 between the Astoria Bridge and the Chinook Tunnel, 40 feet to the north. Since the space for the park is small and the parking lot in the design will accommodate only about 35 cars, buses and RVs, shuttle buses will be available from several locations to bring people to the site, which has been designed with a variety of spaces containing orientation and interpretive signs and a restroom.

A landmark along the highway, will be incorporated into the center of the site as an "organizing element" between the parking lot to the west and the park itself, to the east. A one-way circular road within the park will provide entrance and exit. Turning lanes will be incorporated into the highway design.

The crescent-shaped park will adhere to a water theme and replicate events along the river with rocks, boulders and driftwood. The center of the site will be raised about 6 feet from its present elevation to provide a view of the river "In full view of the ocean," echoing the journals of Lewis and Clark. Interpretive displays will be placed along the circular walkway and will include "Clark's Survey," where visitors can view the landforms the explorers saw. Interpretive panels explaining "the vote," where expedition members decided whether to start back to the east or remain at the river for the winter of 1805-06, will be at the end of the walkway.

"Negotiations began in earnest with the Garvin family in November 2002," Nicandri said. That may seem like quite a stretch of time, but because of permitting requirements, "If we had bought it 18 months ago, we would be no further ahead in construction than we are now because of the advance time required for permits. In this day, with strict environmental regulations, the host of permits we need to secure to build the project in such a sensitive area take a lot of time."

A major permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, what Nicandri refers to as "the granddaddy of all permits," should be acquired by the end of the month.

"The key point is," Nicandri said, "that although it appears the project is behind schedule or delayed, in truth, it isn't. We would have had to get the permits anyway. The property agreement was transacted on a timely basis. Now a whole set of real-estate dominoes have to fall, but we're still on schedule to have the highway moved by the end of next June and the park built by next fall."

The Fort Clatsop Expansion Bill, which would create a bi-state national park that would encompass Station Camp and other sites in Washington, has passed the House of Representatives and is awaiting action in the Senate.

According to Matthew Beck, a spokesman for U.S. Rep. Brian Baird's office, "the bill has passed through the Senate's Energy and Natural Resources committee and is on the Senate floor calendar, waiting to be scheduled for final approval by the entire body. It can be brought up at any time," he said.

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