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U.S. proposes national park to honor Lewis and Clark

The Bush administration proposed Monday expanding Fort Clatsop National Memorial in Oregon and renaming it Lewis & Clark National Park.
A replica of Fort Clatsop, the fort where the Lewis and Clark party passed the winter of 1805-1806, stands under towering fir trees near Astoria, Ore., in this April 2003 file photo.Don Ryan / AP file
/ Source: The Associated Press

Fort Clatsop National Memorial in Oregon would be expanded and renamed the Lewis & Clark National Historical Park under a plan put forth Monday by the Bush administration.

The move comes as the nation celebrates the bicentennial of the 1803-06 expedition to the Pacific Ocean by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. The plan would add three sites along the lower Columbia River to the federal park, expanding it for the first time into Washington state.

“Lewis and Clark traveled on both sides of the river and in both states. In fact, they saw the Pacific from Washington. So it’s very fitting we have a park that fits into both states,” Interior Secretary Gale Norton told The Associated Press.

While Fort Clatsop is where the Lewis and Clark-led Corps of Discovery spent the winter of 1805-06, the expedition traveled widely over the region, Norton said.

“Renaming this for Lewis and Clark allows us to capture the whole Lewis & Clark experience in the Pacific coastal area,” she said.

Park Superintendent Chip Jenkins said renaming the park could raise its profile.

“It takes a real Lewis and Clark enthusiast to know what Fort Clatsop is,” he said, even though the story of the explorers is well known.

Bicentennial visitors and future generations who visit the site can imagine the joy the explorers felt at finally seeing the Pacific in late 1805, at the end of an arduous journey that started almost three years earlier, Norton said.

The proposal follows approval of a bill two years ago to expand the Fort Clatsop memorial from 130 to 1,500 acres. The three new sites would add about 500 acres to the park.

Rep. David Wu, D-Ore., who represents Fort Clatsop, said expanding the park “will create an international tourist destination leading to new investment, economic development and job creation throughout northwest Oregon and southwest Washington.”

Fort Clatsop and nearby Astoria, Ore., are expected to receive more than a million visitors during the bicentennial celebration. A special train has been commissioned to carry Lewis and Clark fans and others between Portland and Astoria four days a week.

The sites to be added to the park include the Station Camp site near McGowan, Wash., where Lewis and Clark camped before returning east in 1806, as well as the Megler Rest Area and Cape Disappointment State Park, formerly known as Fort Canby State Park.

The sites would be protected through a public-private partnership that would also link the federal site with state parks associated with Lewis and Clark.

The plan is expected to cost about $8 million, mostly for land acquisition and personnel. Congress has appropriated $1.5 million for the Fort Clatsop expansion, and the administration is seeking another $6.25 million for the project next year.

Norton said she expected bipartisan support in both the House and Senate.