Special Reports

Teamwork secures place to honor Northwest history

The long-term vision of the new Lewis and Clark National and State Historical Parks has not gotten lost in hoopla for next week’s bicentennial events.

In fact, said park superintendent Chip Jenkins, that vision has been at the forefront as the nation’s newest national park continues its development under a unique agreement between the National Park Service, Washington State Parks and Oregon State Parks.

“The National Park Service and most of the bicentennial organizers have been focused on the legacy aspect of the bicentennial rather than just the five-day event. The groups have realized that when we’re spending money, we’re more interested in doing something that will be of interest in five years, 10 years from now,” Jenkins said.

The new park was created a year ago, encompassing 560 acres in a dozen locations on both sides of the Columbia River. It brings together the three agencies in a cooperative venture to unify the story being told of the region and to combine resources to preserve and develop park facilities.

“The way it has come together and the way it is moving forward, I don’t think it gets much better,” said Rex Derr, director of Washington State Parks. “The partners are trying very hard to make cooperation a model of what the future will be in outdoor recreation and education.”

Derr said each agency is able to maintain its autonomy and yet call on its partners when necessary. That will be an advantage as the state agency deals with the U.S. Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Coast Guard, all of which own land within Cape Disappointment State Park.

“Now that it’s a national park, it may give them some more incentive to work with us,” Derr said.

But the cooperation has extended beyond the three principal agencies. Both Derr and Jenkins cited the Chinook Indian Tribe, local communities and nonprofit groups for stepping forward.

Those other partners will be keys in telling the story of the region that goes beyond Lewis and Clark, Jenkins said.

“Many national parks are built around large geographic features, like Grand Canyon and Mount Rainier. What we have here in the Pacific Northwest is a mountain of heritage, a mountain of history,” Jenkins said.

“That heritage has been shaped by glacial-like forces. The Lewis and Clark glacier has shaped people’s perceptions of the area. We also have the 6,000-year-old Native American glacier, also the maritime industry and the military presence,” he added.

Development of the Station Camp riverfront park is a good example.

The spot first gained prominence because it is where the Corps of Discovery decided to spend the winter of 1805.

But as work on realigning U.S. Highway 101 was taking place, Chinook artifacts were uncovered. Archaeological work has been taking place since January.

“The archaeological work is uncovering all this evidence of use by the Chinook Tribe and uncovering artifacts of the very earliest trade between Native Americans and Anglos. (The site’s) national significance has expanded to include the native Americans and fur trade history,” Jenkins said.

Jeffrey P. Mayor: 253-597-8640