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Oregon Trail Interpretive Center will celebrate Lewis & Clark
By The Associated Press
and staff reports
A key federal project for the Lewis & Clark Bicentennial could be in jeopardy because of a lack of funding.
The Bush administrations 2003 budget includes no money for the Corps of Discovery II, a traveling museum that is supposed to go across the country with exhibits, historical re-enactments and educational materials.
But whether or not federal money is appropriated for the bicentennial celebration, the National Historic Oregon Interpretive Center on Flagstaff Hill still plans to celebrate in at least two ways even though the explorers route took them nowhere near Baker City.
Kelly Burns, a visitor information specialist at the Interpretive Center, said that Baker Alternative School students are growing in their greenhouse some of the more than 170 plant samples that the explorers brought back to President Thomas Jefferson following their three-year journey.
With the aid of a botanist, students are concentrating on growing some of the plants indigenous to the area, she said.
The plants will be displayed and interpretive signs posted in the patio area in back of the museum, she said.
In addition, the Centers Nancy Harms is working to line up performers to make the history of the Corps of Discovery come alive for visitors and area students during 2003-06, the years marking the expeditions bicentennial.
Last summer, Los Angeles resident Daniel Slosberg gave visitors a memorable performance as Pierre Cruzatte, the expeditions quirky cook and fiddle player.
Slosberg will be back, Harms confirmed, as will an actor who portrays everyone from Patrick Henry to Capt. William Clark himself.
In addition, President Jefferson will stop by several times in the coming years, as will Peter Gass, a member of the Lewis & Clark expedition.
The idea, she said, is to show students and visitors that it was Jeffersons vision his Louisiana Purchase led to the coining of the term manifest destiny that made migration along the Oregon Trail possible.
We can tell people all the facts we want to, but when (living history actors) say something, it makes their time come across to modern-day listeners as normal, she said.
Besides increasing visits from tourists, living history performers help keep the Center meaningful to area schoolchildren, Harms said.
With all the financial hardships our schools are going through, its important that we keep being relevant to schools, so theyll keep coming back, she said. We want to be part of their curriculum.
L&C to reach Oregon in 2005
The national exhibit is designed to follow the explorers route on a weekly basis and is scheduled to arrive in Oregon in 2005. In winter months, when the explorers were stationary, the mobile exhibit hall would visit other parts of the country.
The bicentennial celebration of the Lewis & Clark Expedition starts in 2003 and runs through 2006 nationwide. Each state along the route is planning its own events and the federal government is helping to fund and coordinate the commemoration.
Without funding in the 2003 federal budget for the Corps of Discovery II, however, there is doubt that the project can even get off the ground.
Several members of Congress are working to get money for the project through congressional appropriations. The 2003 budget goes into effect in October.
What they face is a national budget under pressure from declining tax revenues and increased defense spending. The Corps of Discovery II project is under the aegis of the National Parks Service, an agency already wrestling with a maintenance backlog in the park system.
Originally the traveling museum was to start in January 2003 in Virginia, then inch across the country as the explorers did. The idea, said Carole McBryant of the Parks Service, was to provide a free venue for communities nationwide to learn from the bicentennial.
It looks like it truly is going to be an American story, where people from all backgrounds will be able to see how our background as a nation unfolded, she said. It will give the American Indian a big place in history.
The project needs about $3 million a year in funding to make the trip. Without the 2003 federal funding, that could mean any community along the Lewis & Clark trail that wants to see The Corps of Discovery II may have to pay for it, McBryant said.
If no money arrives this year, the Corps of Discovery II project may skip the first year of the bicentennial. It could conceivably rejoin the commemoration in 2004 near St. Louis, where the explorers left to explore the Louisiana Purchase.
Were still moving forward, said Dick Williams of the Parks Service. But, There does come a point where if we dont have the money, we have to push things back.