Vancouver barracks military

By Andrea Damewood, Columbian staff writer

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The active military has been gone from the Fort Vancouver National Site for 10 years. Today, just a handful of Reserve and National Guard units remain.

They are soon to be gone too.

The Army is set to turn over the east and south barracks properties to the National Park Service by September 2011.

And the Park Service has turned its attention to just how it wants to reshape the 110-year-old structures.

They’ve got countless issues: lead, asbestos, seismic and disabilities upgrades, utilities and a former Northwest Indian burial site among them.

Repairs are set to cost tens of millions of dollars. How that tab will be split is still being negotiated by the two federal agencies, according to Park Service Project Manager Ray Cozby.

This building, number 989, plays home to administrative offices for the U.S. Army 104th Reserve unit, and about 100 soldiers are around on most business days — many more when the unit is having a training weekend.

But there’s a winding-down feeling: the hallways remained mostly empty on a cloudy mid-morning tour.

Signs of the presence of the 104th are everywhere, however, from the flags featuring the division’s tiger symbol, to stairs with messages to “never accept defeat,” and “never quit.”

Built between 1904 and 1907, building 989 is among three large U-shaped buildings that have seen thousands of service men stay under their roofs. No one has slept there in decades, said Bill Schell, a civilian Facility Management Specialist with the 88th Regional Support Command, who has been stationed at the Vancouver Barracks for 25 years.

The Park Service is crafting a master plan for revamping the buildings in the east and south barracks. The idea for No. 989 is to fix it up but keep it as offices for the Park Service, which is in need of the space, Cozby said.

Other buildings could become a museum; a trailhead building with information, bathrooms and stroller/bike rentals; restaurants; retail and other offices.