The Fort Vancouver National Historic Site has been a lot of things.
Indigenous people occupied the land for thousands of years. In the 19th century, the Hudson’s Bay Co. trading post was one of the first Euro-American settlements in the Pacific Northwest. Then the U.S. Army occupied the land for more than a century.
In 2012, the military passed management of the land to the National Park Service, which is now tasked with transforming the site into something else.
Today, Fort Vancouver is an amalgamation of all those pieces of history. The job of Park Superintendent Tracy Fortmann and her team is to honor each phase while still helping the site function as a practical, usable place.
It’s easier said than done.
“Through time, there’s a lot of hodgepodge. I’ve sometimes said it was like a big handful of spaghetti, and you throw it against the wall and it just splatters everywhere,” Fortmann said, as she walked past a construction site at the park on a recent day. “It just happens, and life can be messy.”
It’s not the first time the site has undergone a comprehensive overhaul, and it’s unlikely to be the last.