Update on American Camp Visitor Center
By Louise Dustrude
When the new Visitor Center opens at American Camp next summer there will be some familiar features — the curved-trunk Douglas fir at the entrance, the small clump of black locust trees within the parking lot, and the friendly, knowledgeable National Park Service staff and volunteers to answer questions.
There will also be a number of innovations and improvements — interpretive panels hung from a beautiful trellis in a new plaza and demonstration area, stairs between the upper and lower areas of the parking lot, a bronze sculpture and other tactile elements including relief maps you can touch, as well as more parking and improved rest rooms.
The eagle pair, “Bertha” and “Bob, Jr.,” that have nested in the vicinity of the visitor center for over 15 years, continue to give pleasure to visitors. They successfully fledged two eaglets in 2019, and they have stayed around during this year’s construction according to Sara Dolan, the resources stewardship program manager for the park. She added, “The spotting scope will return once construction is complete and the Visitor Center is open to the public.”
A new access road will be constructed off of Cattle Point Road about a hundred yards east of the existing drive, to enhance safety and provide better sight distance for drivers exiting and entering Cattle Point Road.
The southern end of the American Camp Trail and trailhead will again be accessible from the visitor center parking area. Until then the trail remains closed at the Park’s border with the Land Bank’s Fraser Homestead Preserve for visitor safety due to the active construction, and installation of the septic system’s drain field.
Other trails at American Camp — at the Redoubt, South Beach, Grandma’s Cove, and the large Mt. Finlayson/Jakle’s Lagoon area — remain open.
Construction work has been continuous since ground was broken in late October 2019, except for a short holiday break in December, and is expected to be completed by summer 2021. While construction on the building, new access road, and parking area is scheduled to be completed in late fall 2020, the next phase of construction is the fabrication and installation of all the new exhibits both inside and outside the building.
Anyone who is interested in the progress of construction can look at the website: https://www.nps.gov/sajh/blogs/vc-construction.htm and follow the weekly reports.
HRHansen Construction of Lynden won the competitive bid for the construction project. That company has done many other projects throughout the county.
The new American Camp Visitor Center and its exhibits are supported through many streams of federal funding, including the National Park Service’s Recreation Fee program.
“San Juan Island National Historical Park has been diligently working to secure funding for this project since 2008,” said Park Superintendent Elexis Fredy. “The transformation of the visitor center area will honor the park’s historic-cultural landscapes and transform the experience for visitors and residents through brand new exhibits that will provide a more comprehensive regional context for the establishment of the park and its national significance.”