An undying wish

More than 300 guests attended Saturday's dedication to Nancy Russell at Cape Horn

By Dan Trujillo, Columbian staff writer

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If Nancy Russell was still alive today, looking out at Columbia River Gorge from her new viewpoint at Cape Horn would have given her chills.

More than 300 guests felt her presence during a dedication in her honor Saturday. The morning mist hitting their faces felt like tears of joy. And as each guest shared their story about Nancy, the fog lifted and everybody could see east for miles.

“If mom were here today, she would not be content with just this,” said her son Aubrey Russell. “She would be looking east, and wanting to establish those trail connections from Washougal to Stevenson.”

Russell shared a touching story with the crowd about the last time he brought his mother to the Cape Horn site, before she passed away in 2008.

“It looked much different here three years ago. There was all of this construction and the tearing down of the houses,” he said. “Mom looked across the sight where walls had once risen and blocked the view of the gorge and said ‘one day, this will be a public park. East, go east. There are too many hidden treasures between here and Stevenson that need to be discovered.'”

In 1983, Friends of the Columbia Gorge founder Nancy Russell was introduced to a proposed 16-lot subdivision called “Rim View Estates.” Inspired by the natural beauty surrounding Cape Horn and determined to preserve the property, Nancy and her husband Bruce took out a $300,000 bank loan and gave the money to the Trust for Public Land as a no-interest loan.

Trust for Public Land brought 12 of the 16 lots and eventually sold them to the Forest Service for conservation. In time, only two private homes stood in the way of designing a public recreation area of more than 1,000 acres. Nancy was able to secure “an option” to purchase one of the homes. The other home stood where the viewpoint is today.

The 5,500-foot house went up for sale in 2005. Once it was purchased, the Friends of the Columbia Gorge launched the Campaign for Cape Horn and generated more than $4 million to remove the homes and construct an overlook.

Nancy’s undying wish to preserve Cape Horn came true Saturday. Friends and family hope this is just the beginning.