By Hilary Corrigan
Triplicate staff writer
Redwood National and State Parks wants to create the mega-visitor center in Del Norte County that various local groups have long sought.
The facility could host community events and direct tourists to area parks, attractions and business. It also would consolidate the existing information spots that the Crescent City-Del Norte County Chamber of Commerce, parks and other government agencies now run throughout the area.
"It would make sense, from our perspective, to combine as many partners in that center as possible," said Redwood National and State Park superintendent Steve Chaney.
The proposal comes as the National Park Service promotes President George W. Bush's proposed 2008 budget. That includes a funding plan to prepare for the service's 100th anniversary in 2016.
The Centennial Initiative calls on parks to start raising more private money in 2008 that federal money would match. Over the next decade, an estimated $3 billion could fund capital projects, such as trail and building construction, to spruce up parks for the anniversary.
Redwood National and State Parks is proposing various centennial initiative projects to its regional office and headquarters in Washington, D.C., to help sell the budget proposal to Congress.
"The Administration has asked for some quick, broad-brushed concept ideas," said Rick Nolan, chief interpreter at the park.
National Park Service officials have been hosting forums across the country to gauge possible funding sources, such as private corporations, nonprofits and other groups.
"That's one of the biggest questions," Nolan said of supporters. "To start to look at where partners would come from."
Park officials may not need to look too hard.
"It would be something the chamber would jump at the opportunity to get involved in," said chamber president Chris Howard of the visitor center. "It's something we've always seen the need for."
Combining existing small visitor centers into one large one could snag drivers' attention as they pass through the area.
"Whoa, we want to pull over and stop here' that's the reaction you want," Howard said.
The park proposal comes as Del Norte County and Crescent City
officials, along with business and community leaders, consider relocating tourist and cultural facilities to a single site. Those suggestions include placing visitor, park, library and museum services at the Del Norte Fairgrounds to snag attention from highway traffic.
But the Crescent City Harbor could provide the best spot for a visitor center, others say.
"It makes a lot of sense," said Harbormaster Richard Young, noting that the facility would fit into the harbor's development plans.
State Park Superintendent Bruce Lynn agreed, pointing out a grassy stretch at the harbor along U.S. Hwy. 101's southbound lanes.
"It would be an excellent location," Lynn said. "It'd be a great little place to stop and look around."
The park's other centennial initiative ideas include enacting management plan goals for the 25,000-acre Mill Creek Addition. The effort also could restore habitat and revert logging roads back to natural land in Mill Creek and Redwood Creek parks.
"To get that completed would be a great project," Nolan said.
The San Francisco-based, nonprofit Save the Redwoods League would help garner money to fund park restoration projects, said Ruskin Hartley, the group's executive director.
Other projects aim to make plans for a closed section of Jedediah Smith campgrounds, where researchers recently found American Indian artifacts in a village site dating more than 7,000 years.
Up Bald Hills Road, park crews could cut back the evergreen forest that has encroached on Gann's Prairie that the Yurok Tribe once managed. Another project would renovate Howland Hill Outdoor School, a more than 50-year-old, deteriorating lodge off of Howland Hill Road.
"If we could find a way to do it, it'd be great," Nolan said.
Consolidated Visitor Center
A proposed multi-agency visitor center could replace:
Visitor center portion of Redwood National and State Parks' downtown Crescent City building, although headquarter offices would remain.
Crescent City-Del Norte County Chamber of Commerce office at the Cultural Center on Front Street.
Other area state and national visitor centers that would likely focus services on nearby campgrounds and specific sites. Those include the U.S. Forest Service Office on U.S. Hwy. 199 in Gasquet, the national park's seasonal center on Hwy.199 in Hiouchi and the state park centers at Jedediah Smith, Stone Lagoon and Prairie Creek.