Contact: Alex Patterson, Facility Manager, 360-816-6221
Contact: Thru 7/31: Greg Shine, Chief Ranger & Historian, 360-816-6231
Contact: After 7/31: Tracy Fortmann, Superintendent, 380-816-6205
VANCOUVER, WA -- The National Park Service (NPS) has awarded a $1.7 million contract to DSL Builders, LLC of Salem, Oregon to rehabilitate the Visitor Center at Fort Vancouver National Historic Site. The contract includes the design and construction of the rehabilitation project, which will reconfigure interior space to allow for accessibility, increase educational opportunities and enhance visitor experience.
The visitor center was built in 1961 as part of the National Park Service’s Mission 66 Initiative, commemorating the agency’s 50th anniversary. This rehabilitation, timed for completion before the National Park Service’s 100th anniversary in 2016, will upgrade the facility to meet current accessibility standards, improve the park’s primary visitor restrooms, and upgrade the mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems within the building.
Fort Vancouver National Historic Site recorded over 780,000 recreational visits last year, and this rehabilitation will focus on designing the visitor center to better facilitate the community, visitors and educational and tour groups. The museum exhibit area and the theater will both be expanded to serve the hands-on, interpretation and educational opportunities for visitors and the more than 12,000 elementary school students who visit the national park annually for curriculum-based programming.
“The rehabilitation of this visitor center will be a significant achievement in serving our community and the public,” said Tracy Fortmann, superintendent. “In a time of fiscal constraint, this project will enable us to breathe new life into this building which has served us all so well for over 50 years. Our goal is to create a visitor center which is the gathering place for the public, and a starting point where visitors can gain a sense of the opportunities that await them at Fort Vancouver National Historic Site and the Vancouver National Historic Reserve.”
“We just learned the contract was awarded yesterday,” added Superintendent Fortmann. “We’ve waited a long time for this day. I must give tremendous credit to park employees who were committed and never wavered in their support of bringing the visitor center into a new, exciting era of public service through its role as the ‘living room’ of this entire site, as envisioned through the Vancouver National Historic Reserve partnership.”
The project is expected to begin this fall and be completed in the summer of 2015. Alex Patterson, the park’s facility manager, is the point of contact for the project. During the rehabilitation period, the National Park Service will be relocating the visitor center’s public service functions to the lobby area of Pearson Air Museum, located within the national park at 1115 East Fifth St. in Vancouver. The museum’s exhibits will remain in place and grow as the park introduces new aviation-themed exhibitry.
“Our goal is to provide a seamless visitor experience during this short rehabilitation period, and Pearson Air Museum is the location that we and our partners felt most suited to meet it,” said Greg Shine, the park's chief ranger and historian.
During this temporary relocation to Pearson Air Museum, National Park Service staff and volunteers will continue to provide the in-person, 7-day a week visitor service that visitors have come to expect at the visitor center, including introductory films, site history and context, visit planning, and exhibits. The park has also invited the visitor center’s bookstore operator, the Fort Vancouver National Trust, to temporarily relocate with them to the air museum during the rehabilitation. Park staff plan to continue to work with the Trust to provide visitor access to this popular amenity, to facilitate bookstore operation during this transition period, and to help return the bookstore to the visitor center when it reopens. Park rangers and park volunteers will also continue to distribute visitor information, including maps, guides, and brochures provided through a new partnership with Visit Vancouver USA, the Vancouver USA Regional Tourism Office.
“In just four months this spring, the National Park Service welcomed over 1,000 students to Pearson Air Museum through new curriculum-based education programming,” said Dr. Bob Cromwell, air museum manager. “This rehabilitation project presents a wonderful opportunity to bring more of the fort’s 12,000-plus annual student visitors to Pearson Air Museum to experience it and the other popular resources onsite -- especially the reconstructed fort. We want to continue to see visitation and connections grow at Pearson Air Museum, too.”
Although not part of the DSL Builders contract, the National Park Service will also be developing new, interactive exhibits for the visitor center. Meagan Huff, the park’s museum technician, will be working with community partners, including the Confluence Project. “I am excited to be the lead for the exhibit and interpretive elements of this project,” Huff said. “While this aspect of the project is not part of the DSL Builders contract, it is nevertheless a vital aspect of making the center a warm, welcoming, and educational community resource.”
Last updated: February 28, 2015