What Will Vancouver Barracks Become?

National Park Service seeks public's ideas on use of old barracks

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The National Parks Service wants Clark County residents to answer these questions:

? What do you like best about the east and south barracks?

? What opportunities do you see for these areas?

? What issues and alternatives do you think the plan should address?

? What challenges should the Parks Service keep in mind?

? Who: The National Park Service will take control of the east and south barracks from the Army at the Fort Vancouver National National Site next year.

? What: The Park Service is looking for public input on what should be done with these historic buildings. A public meeting and site tour will take place.

? When: April 7, noon to 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

? Where: Red Cross Building, 605 Barnes St.

? Ideas: To submit suggestions in writing, visit parkplanning.nps.gov/fova or send to Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, 612 E. Reserve St., Vancouver, 98661.

The Army is leaving the east and south Vancouver Barracks, and the buildings’ new owner, the National Park Service, wants help from the public on what its marching orders should be.

Currently, the more than 25 buildings are occupied by the U.S. Army Reserve for office, administrative and training purposes. Some, like the old auditorium, are available for community gatherings; others are unused.

But after more than 160 years, they’re moving out, and will transfer the ownership to the Park Service by the fall of next year, Park Service Project Manager Ray Cozby said.

Those buildings are going to need to be recommissioned for new duties, and the service is now taking recommendations from folks how they should be used, he said.

Public participation will help shape the Park Service’s Environmental Assessment master plan, Park Service Superintendent Tracy Fortmann said in a release.

The National Parks Service wants Clark County residents to answer these questions:

? What do you like best about the east and south barracks?

? What opportunities do you see for these areas?

? What issues and alternatives do you think the plan should address?

? What challenges should the Parks Service keep in mind?

Scheduled for completion in 2011, the master plan will “establish clear direction for the rehabilitation and public use of the east and south barracks,” Fortmann said.

? Who: The National Park Service will take control of the east and south barracks from the Army at the Fort Vancouver National National Site next year.

? What: The Park Service is looking for public input on what should be done with these historic buildings. A public meeting and site tour will take place.

? When: April 7, noon to 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

? Where: Red Cross Building, 605 Barnes St.

? Ideas: To submit suggestions in writing, visit parkplanning.nps.gov/fova or send to Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, 612 E. Reserve St., Vancouver, 98661.

Some buildings are well-suited to their current use as office space, but others could be “pretty wide open” for varying uses, Cozby said.

The Park Service is likely to remodel and use at least one of the east barracks buildings for its own administrative use, he said, but added, “We want a good complementary mix of functions here that serve the whole site.”

The Park Service is taking written comment now through May 1 and plans to have two open-house meetings at the Red Cross Building on April 7. The meetings will include a brief presentation and walking tour.

Any and all suggestions are welcome. Cozby said with a laugh that he’s heard someone even inquired about using a building for ice curling training.

But he also said ideas should probably be grounded “in terms of economic viability.”

Cozby said interest in the revamping has picked up as the deadline for the change-over nears: The leader of the Army Reserve’s 104th Training Division (Leader Training) has said that soldiers and civilians will be fully moved to Fort Lewis by July.

There’s a lot of work to be done, too. The buildings — many of which were built around 1900 — are going to need millions of dollars in electrical, structural and wheelchair accessibility work before they can be used by the public, Cozby said.

Details of who will manage the property are still being worked out, he said. The federal agency is considering an arrangement similar to that between the city of Vancouver’s and the nonprofit Fort Vancouver National Trust. The city owns Officers Row and the west barracks, and the trust manages the properties and land.

Since 2000, four reports have also given guidance on preservation and use of the east and south barracks; the Park Service says their master plan will build on those documents and give “a more focused direction.”

“By sharing your opinions about the project now, you can truly make a difference in the outcome of this master plan,” Fortmann said.

Andrea Damewood: 360-735-4542 or andrea.damewood@columbian.com.