Renewed interpretive center explores Lewis and Clark

Gov. Gary Locke signed SB 6372 Friday afternoon during the re-dedication of the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center at Cape Disappointment State Park. With Locke are Washington Parks and Recreation Commissioner Bob Petersen and Larry Chapman, manager of the park. The bill authorizes beginning planning for the State Parkscentennial commemoration in 2013.

CAPE D STATE PARK - The viewing room at the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center was packed Friday for the re-dedication of the center after a nearly two-year, $2.5 million construction and remodeling project were finally completed.

During the afternoon, Gov. Gary Locke signed SB 6372 - legislation that will support planning for the 2013 centennial of Washington's state parks. Before signing the bill, Locke described his love affair with the outdoors.

"I grew up in the concrete of downtown Seattle," Locke said. "My aunt and uncle took me on a camping trip to the Olympic Peninsula when I was a teenager. I had never before seen trees and scenery like that. The parks are our treasures."

Washington Parks and Recreation Commission Chairman Rex Derr told the group, just like in Lewis and Clark's time in Pacific County, there was "Great joy in camp," at the dedication. Derr introduced Commissioner and emcee Mickey Fearn who welcomed the crowd

"The Lewis and Clark story is the most famous undertold story in the world," Fearn said. "The lessons of what can be done against unbelievable odds when you have dedication and vision can be applied to today's society."

Chinook Tribal Chairman Gary Johnson presented a welcome in the Chinook language and in English

"We were here to greet Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery and are here to honor them and those who have worked to make the interpretive center a special place," he said.

Commissioner Bob Petersen, of Long Beach, recalled the first dedication of the center in 1976.

"A couple of years before that," he said, "there was a Jeep trail to the site. When it was finished, it was magnificent. It still is."

Parks Ranger Gary Lentz, dressed as Sgt. Patrick Gass, an expedition member, introduced Jane Bridge, "his" great-great-granddaughter, and presented her with a peace medal. Bridge donated Gass's razor box, made by Sacagawea, to the center many years ago and it remains one of the most valuable and historic pieces on display.

Cape Disappointment State Park Manager Larry Chapman introduced his interpretive staff, saying there are five interpretive specialists in the state, three of whom are at Cape D.

Virginia Painter, public affairs director for Parks announced that plans are beginning for a centennial celebration of the formation of the agency in 2013. Painter has been named executive lead for the centennial.

"It's not too soon to start to plan," she said. "That includes resources and employees; a financial strategy to help make it happen; and legacy projects as trail connections, new destinations and taking care of old parks. One hundred community-based projects are planned and we want help with them from the community neighborhood with resources and labor. It's a combination of public and private funding - a new concept."

A million people have passed through the center since it was built 27 years ago, said Steve Wang, Chief of Interpretive Services for Parks. He praised the work long-ago of Ralph Rudeen and the late Dick Clifton, whose wife, Ann, was on hand at the dedication, for their work on the exhibits at the original center. Rudeen, executive secretary of the state's Lewis and Clark Trail Committee attended the event. Later in the day, there was an unveiling of a new sign designating the center's viewing room the Clifton-Rudeen Gallery.

Keynote speaker David Nicandri, director of the state's historical society, said the center "takes second place to no other on the trail." He outlined the history of the Cape Disappointment name dating to 1788 when John Meares thought the entrance to the Columbia River was a mere bay.

Locke described the Lewis and Clark Expedition as challenging.

"And dangerous as space exploration and one of the most important and inspiring chapters in the state's history. Members of the expedition were intrepid explorers of a vast unknown territory," he said. "They defined a uniquely American ethos - self reliance and irrepressible spirit that is in all Americans."

The governor announced that the Confluence Project that will place five sculptures by artist Maya Lin at five locations along the Columbia River in the state received $2 million from the Legislature Thursday night. The project has already received $3 million.

"We are so lucky to have enticed her to design these monuments," he said.

The afternoon ended with Parks Commissioner Joan Thomas lowering a saber to the sound of a cannon outside the center ignited by Lentz. A reception followed in the new meeting room at the center with four flavors of cake provided by Bob and Judi Andrew of Cottage Bakery.

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