Parts of the Peninsula's backyard became the country's newest national park last weekend when President Bush signed the Lewis and Clark National Park Designation Act of 2004.
Lewis and Clark National and State Historical Park encompasses Fort Clatsop National Memorial, Washington and Oregon state parks, and three Washington state sites significant to Lewis and Clark's original expedition - Station Camp, Clark's Dismal Nitch and Cape Disappointment State Park.
The official expansion and renaming of Fort Clatsop National Memorial will take place during a ceremony Friday, Nov. 12, beginning at 9:30 a.m. at the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center in Cape Disappointment State Park. National Park Service Director Fran P. Mainella will be among those on hand for the ceremony dedicating the unit as the new Lewis and Clark National Historical Park. Mainella visited the area on Wednesday, Oct. 27, and said there is a possibility President George W. Bush will attend the ceremony.
"President Bush is providing enthusiastic leadership in the nation's commemoration of the 200th anniversary of Lewis and Clark's historic journey," Interior Secretary Gale Norton said in a press release. "With the president's signature on this legislation, we are protecting key sites in Washington that were part of the Corps of Discovery's encampment in the harsh winter of 1805. This will help to ensure that the people of Washington and Oregon can roll out the welcome mat to the world's visitors who are now following the footsteps of America's legendary explorers 200 years later."
In any event, Nov. 12 will be a busy day for Lewis and Clark aficionados. Clark's Dismal Nitch at the Megler Safety Rest Area east of the Astoria-Megler Bridge will officially be opened in a ribbon cutting ceremony at 2 p.m. And, the two events are scheduled in the midst of the annual Veterans Day Weekend "Ocian in View" presentations.
"We're excited that the story of the Lewis and Clark Expedition at the mouth of the Columbia River will now be told with more coordination between the agencies involved," Cape Disappointment State Park Interpretive Specialist Jon Schmidt said Monday. Schmidt said the park's shuttle will be operating throughout the weekend to ferry visitors to LCIC. No admission will be charged during the three-day weekend. He said people should park at the boat launch area at the entrance to the park to access the shuttle.
"This is the first joint event with Oregon and Washington state parks and the National Park Service working together," Cape D Manager Larry Chapman said. "We're looking forward to the future."
Also during the dedication, stamp collectors can bring their mail to the Interpretive Center from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and have it cancelled with a special Lewis and Clark stamp, according to Ilwaco Postmaster Rudy St. John. At the post office itself, St. John said a number of Lewis and Clark-related items will be for sale, including stamps, teddy bears, pictures and keychains.
At least two Washington State Parks commissioners are expected to attend the Nov. 12 events, including Bob Petersen from Long Beach.
"We're pleased this has all come together just as we had hoped it would," he said Monday. "We couldn't be happier."
Among other dignitaries expected to attend the events are U.S. Reps. Brian Baird and David Wu and possibly U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell.
"The dedication of the Lewis and Clark National Historical Park is the fulfillment of a longtime goal of mine and of many others from our region," said Rep. Baird. "Finally, our state will get the recognition it deserves as a part of the final stages of Lewis and Clark's push to the Pacific," Baird said.
For Lewis and Clark historian Rex Ziak, the news was the culmination of a seven-year effort to include historic sites in Washington in the commemoration of the bicentennial of the expedition.
"In 1997 or 1998 I was aware the bicentennial was a bigger and more exciting story than I or most people were aware of," he said. "It was like throwing a rock into a pool. The awareness moved to Astoria, to Olympia, Portland and across the nation. The ripples have now reached the House and Senate and now the White House that there is history here that had been overlooked and was so significant that, even in a time when the government is doing everything to cut back spending and reduce financial obligations, they have said 'We have to put our stamp on this. It's essential to our nation.'
"As I argued in the Senate," Ziak said, "there's a massive amount of misinformation and archaic information in the public domain. During the next 18 to 24 months, there will be a lot of re-education going on so people can learn the true story of this area. Possession of these sites and proper interpretation is the road to doing that."
David Nicandri, director of the Washington State History Museum in Tacoma said he and his organization are "absolutely thrilled" about the new park. "We're headquartered a long way from Pacific County," he said. "I tell my staff our goal as an organization is to be relevant in Pomeroy or in Pacific County and I'm thrilled we had the chance to play a roll in something so obviously important to the county and its heritage.
"Personally, this is one of the accomplishments I take the most pride in in my 30-plus years with the organization, along with building of the history museum in Tacoma," Nicandri said. "This is the result of a magnificent team effort that included Rex Ziak for the initial story, Pacific County Friends of Lewis and Clark, the city of Long Beach and Nabiel Shawa in particular and Chip Jenkins and Don Stryker as superintendents at Fort Clatsop, who were the first superintendents to think of the Lewis and Clark story other than just in terms of Fort Clatsop.
Nicandri also said he enjoyed working with Baird and Cantwell. "We don't get an opportunity to work with people in Congress very often," he said.
A brand-new Web site has been launched for the new park at (http://www.lewisandclarknationalpark.com) that contains information on all the sites in Oregon and in Washington.