Fort Clatsop
Administrative History
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Public Law 85-435 provided for the creation of Fort Clatsop National Memorial and authorized the Secretary of the Interior to identify lands associated with Fort Clatsop, as well as portions of the overland trail from the fort to the coast, for inclusion in the memorial and to acquire those lands through purchase, donation, or other necessary measures. Fulfillment of the memorial's enabling legislation would be realized when at least 100 acres were in federal ownership. The task of identifying and acquiring lands for the park was the responsibility of the Region Four Office (Region Four was renamed the Western Region Office in 1962) in San Francisco. Region Four received assistance from the Western Office of Design and Construction (WODC) and the Columbia River Basin Survey Branch (CRBSB), a NPS field office in Portland, Oregon.

The lands identification process began with regional historian John Hussey's 1957 report. In that report, Hussey identified requirements for establishing a memorial at the site and suggested three possible boundaries. The boundaries established by Hussey took into account the re-creation and protection of the historic setting, the proximity of the existing county road to the site, the proximity of a neighboring residence, and needed administrative buildings. Hussey's minimum boundary recommendation called for a 32-acre site that included the fort replica, the canoe landing and mooring sites, the spring to the north, an area to the west for administrative buildings, and space to provide a screen between the fort and the neighboring residence. The second boundary recommendation called for 95 acres and included the neighboring residence and property, more land to the south for re-creation of the historic setting, and room to relocate the entrance and exit road and restore the bluff below the fort building, where the existing county road cut through, to its natural state. A third recommendation for 418 acres included acreage to the west and along the east bank of the Lewis and Clark River, visible from the fort site, for the historic setting and to provide a buffer from modern developments.

After Hussey's report and suggested boundaries were submitted to Congress in August 1957, Senator Neuberger drafted the enabling legislation for the memorial which would become law in May 1958. In the enabling legislation, Neuberger set a maximum acreage limitation of 125 acres. The reasons for this limitation are not clear. Correspondence between the NPS Western Regional Office and Washington D.C. show clearly that those involved in planning the park's development wanted to avoid a land limitation. From April 1957 to February 1958, correspondence regarding Hussey's suggested boundaries indicates that the Western Regional Office considered 100 acres as the minimum acreage acceptable for establishing the memorial and recommended leaving other lands identified in the boundary recommendations for possible future acquisition. Recommendations from the Assistant Regional Director to the NPS Director dated January 7, 1958, suggested a 100-acre minimum and stressed that if legislation was introduced in Congress for establishment of Fort Clatsop National Memorial, the Service should avoid having an acreage limitation written into the bill. A letter from Region Four Director Lawrence Merriam to the Director of the National Park Service dated February 13, 1958, advised that the acreage limitation be dropped from the Fort Clatsop bill. Merriam stated

In view of our past experience with historical areas, we are aware that such arbitrary maximum limits are frequently a severe handicap in the proper administration and development of historical parks and monuments. Witness our land problems at Cabrillo, Whitman, and Fort Vancouver. In the case of Fort Clatsop, we think such a limit would be particularly unfortunate, since we would be debarred from obtaining any really significant portion of the Lewis and Clark trail to the Coast even should it be donated to the United States. In our opinion, the greater part of the suggested 125 acres will be urgently required to protect the immediate vicinity of the fort site itself. Therefore, we recommend that an attempt be made to eliminate this provision from the bill. [2]

In determining why the limitation was created, it can only be assumed that it was necessary to ensure the success of the legislation. Correspondence indicates a hesitation on the part of those involved to introduce anything into the legislative process that would endanger passage of the memorial's enabling legislation.

On August 6, 1958, John Hussey completed "The Lewis and Clark Trail from Fort Clatsop to the Clatsop Plains, Oregon," a report in which he studied the identification and preservation possibilities of a section of the overland trail from the fort site to the Clatsop Plains. The enabling legislation for the memorial intended the inclusion of portions of the overland trail to the Pacific Coast used by the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Hussey concluded that 575 acres of timber lands could be obtained to protect the historical values of the trail portion and that such action would be desirable, provided that the necessary land acquisition did not adversely affect the lands acquisition process surrounding the memorial itself. The report also examined the possible inclusion in the memorial of a particular tract of forest land that belonged to the Crown Zellerbach Corporation. A news release issued from Senator Neuberger's office on June 22, 1958, reported that the Senator intended to discuss with the Crown Zellerbach Corporation the possible donation of a "segment of virgin evergreen timber stockading" [3] the trail to the Clatsop Plains. The tract was a stand of old growth hemlock located approximately 0.6 mile west of the fort site and consisted of about eleven acres. Hussey recommended no further consideration be given to this proposal. He dismissed the possibility of such a donation because of possible land use conflicts that would arise if the tract was obtained and the lands between the memorial and the 11-acre site continued to be owned by Crown Zellerbach. He also expressed doubts that the section of forest in question was truly old growth.

On August 19, 1958, the Division of Recreation Resource Planning, Region Four, submitted the "Boundary Study Report for Fort Clatsop National Memorial." The report was requested by Region Four Chief of Division of Recreation Resource Planning Ben H. Thompson to study boundary proposals for the park. Members of the planning team that developed the report were John Hussey, CRBSB Chief Neal Butterfield, WODC landscape architect Richard Barnett, CRBSB landscape architect Edwin L. Arnold, and CRBSB recreational planner Victor T. Ecklund. The report began by restating Hussey's first and second boundary proposals, for 32 and 95 acres respectively, to preserve the fort site and some of the historic setting. The planning team recommended two additional proposals which included the site and historic scene, relocation of the county road, the necessary visitor and administrative facilities, parking, employee housing, and utility facilities. Their first recommendation utilized 125 acres, which provided for the road relocation, visitor and parking needs, minimum residential and utility needs, and minimum protection against future incompatible developments. Their second boundary recommendation was for 418 acres, which provided for additional protection of the site and historic scene, inclusion of necessary facilities, and buffers against future developments.

The planning team also considered Hussey's trail to the Clatsop Plains proposal. While they agreed with Hussey's recommendations for preserving a portion of the overland trail, they recommended not pursuing the trail proposal until such time as the memorial legislation would not be endangered. On August 19, 1958, Acting Regional Director Herbert Maier recommended to the NPS Director that the trail be made a separate consideration so as not to complicate the memorial objective. The trail proposal was left for future consideration. Although the enabling legislation was signed into law with the 125-acre ceiling, the planning team continued to recommend plans for a larger park, arguing against the limitation.

The regional planning division, working in conjunction with the Portland field office and WODC, identified eleven tracts of land, totaling 124.97 acres, to complete the first boundary proposal in the study report. Sixteen tracts were identified that would have completed the second boundary proposal of 418 acres. [4 ] The Portland field office worked with Clatsop County offices in establishing possible boundary lines. Consideration was given to existing property lines and developments, topography, the best possible relocation of the county road, necessary facilities, and historic site protection.

On March 11, 1959, Director Conrad Wirth designated the planning team's first proposal of 124.97 acres as the official boundary of the memorial and authorized the regional office to proceed with acquisition of identified tracts, making additional adjustments as necessary, as long as the 125 acres was not exceeded. The Secretary of the Interior approved this designation and the regional office proceeded to acquire the eleven tracts. With the official designation of the memorial boundary, the debate over additional land acquisition was ended.

In addition to having to deal with the individual land owners, the Park Service had to deal with a number of separate rights attached to the properties in question. Clay and mineral rights, railway rights, diking rights, road rights, prospecting rights, and easement rights to Pacific Power and Light for power lines all pertained to the various tracts identified. Most of the tracts had a combination of different rights attached to them.

Of the eleven tracts identified, five tracts totaling 21.2 acres were donated. They included: tract #8 donated by the Oregon Historical Society, including the fort replica; tract #1 donated by Clatsop County; tract #2 donated by the Clatsop County Historical Society; and tracts #3A and 3B donated by the Crown Zellerbach Corporation. Senator Neuberger was again a major influence in the development of the memorial by suggesting and encouraging the president of Crown Zellerbach to donate land for the memorial's establishment.

The remaining six tracts, totaling 103.77 acres, were purchased from neighboring land owners. They included: tract #6 owned by R.J. and Jean Kraft; tract #7 owned by Kenneth and Ruth Miller, including a house; tract #5 owned by J.K. Roberts; tract #9 owned by Archie Riekkola; tract #10 owned by Elmer and Barbara Miller, which included a barn; and tract #11 owned by Otto and Alice Owen. Total cost for purchasing the six tracts was $46,150. [5] In October 1962, the Secretary of the Interior announced that the 124.97 acres of the memorial had been donated or purchased.

In all, nine rights (two mineral, four clay, and three railway) were obtained, all through quitclaim donations. Quitclaim donations were given by Gladding, McBean, and Co. (who held most of the clay rights), Crown Zellerbach, and Clatsop County. Clatsop County also quitclaimed rights to all county roads and trails within the memorial boundaries. All rights to memorial lands are currently owned by the federal government.

One year after the final papers were cleared for all land purchases, Mrs. Alice Owen offered to sell the remainder of the Owen tract to the memorial. In the creation of the memorial, the Park Service had purchased only a portion of the Owen property. Shortly after the purchase, Mr. Owen passed away and Mrs. Owen desired to sell the rest of their property, consisting of 79 acres. Superintendent Charles Peterson informed the regional office about the offer and inquired about the possibility of purchasing the land. The answer was negative. Purchasing the 79 acres meant not only finding the funding but also getting amendatory legislation through Congress to increase the memorial's acreage ceiling.

The memorial's inability to purchase the 79 acres would later cause a public relations problem. In 1970, Robert J. Hjorten, owner of the property, inquired if any road rights-of-way were maintained by the Owens in their sale to the Park Service. In 1961, when the Park Service relocated the county road, the Owens' road was obliterated and they apparently reached the remainder of their property through a private neighboring road. Around 1972, Hjorten requested permission to build a 100-foot road from the county road to his property that would have cut through the far northwest corner of the memorial property. Superintendent Paul Haertel reviewed the proposal and referred it to the regional lands division. Upon further investigation, the service learned that Clatsop County had reserved a public use right-of-way from the old U.S. Highway 101 inward to the Hjorten property. This meant he had the ability to build a 1400-foot road. Because he had legal road access, the service rejected his proposal.

A few years later, Hjorten countered by offering a land exchange. He proposed exchanging a strip of his property adjacent to the western edge of the memorial boundary for an equal amount of land from the northwest corner of the memorial property. The exchange would have allowed Hjorten to build the 100-foot road he had proposed earlier without cutting through memorial lands. Superintendent Bob Scott recommended acceptance of the proposal, but the regional office was not receptive. However, the Park Service never had to make a decision regarding this offer. In November 1978, Hjorten conveyed his property to the Publisher's Paper Company. The eight-year wait was frustrating for Hjorten, who claimed he could not develop or sell the property without a road. Hjorten had written to Senator Mark Hatfield in 1975 requesting assistance in dealing with the Park Service. Senator Hatfield inquired about the matter on his behalf, questioning why an agreement had not been reached. After eight years with no resolution, Hjorten rid himself of the property, probably due to the inability to reach a compromise with the Park Service.

The memorial's land holdings changed for the first time when the National Parks and Recreation Act of 1978 passed Congress and the Salt Works site in Seaside was officially added to the memorial. This legislation amended the memorial's enabling legislation by increasing the acreage ceiling to 130 acres. The addition of the 100-by-100- foot city lot was donated to the Park Service by the Oregon Historical Society on June 23, 1979. The addition raised the total acreage of the memorial to 125.2 acres.

In 1989, Fort Clatsop was offered approximately 32 acres on the west side of the Lewis and Clark River and adjacent to the memorial's western boundary for $32,000. The property belonged to Cavenham Forest Industries, who acquired Crown Zellerbach assets in May 1986 and continues to own the timber property to the west of the memorial as a division of Hansen Natural Resources Company, a conglomerate headquartered in Great Britain. Superintendent Frank Walker informed the regional office of the offer and inquired about the possibility of acquiring the land. Other parties were interested in acquiring the property and the issue of external threats to the memorial through the development of this property had to be addressed. Superintendent Walker favored the acquisition, but the regional office responded negatively for the same reasons the Owens' offer had been turned down in 1963. Superintendent Walker then contacted the Nature Conservancy of Oregon in hopes the organization could purchase the property. When the Nature Conservancy also declined the offer, the Fort Clatsop Historical Association began negotiating with Cavenham to purchase the property. The cooperating association board agreed acquisition of the property was in the best interest of the memorial, protecting it from incompatible development. Chairman Michael Foster contacted Cavenham Industries and negotiated the land purchase. The association purchased the 32 acres for $16,000, half the assessed value of the property, with the intent to donate the land to the memorial at a later date. FCHA continues to hold the property until amendatory legislation raises the acreage limitation and the memorial can incorporate the property.

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Last Updated: 20-Jan-2004