Crater Lake National Park may soon have a sister park in southeast China's Fujian Province.
Park Superintendent Craig Ackerman and Carolyn Hill, executive director of the Crater Lake National Park Trust, are working with Chinese officials as well as the Oregon Legislature and others to create a sister-park agreement between Oregon's only national park and the Mount Wuyi World Heritage and Cultural Site in Fujian Province.
"An agreement like this would not only foster cooperation between park managers in which we both learn from each other, but would also increase visitations to each park," Ackerman said.
"With China becoming more affluent, that would mean a lot of visits to Oregon and to Crater Lake."
Mount Wuyi park currently receives about 7 million visitors a year compared to about half a million to Crater Lake, he noted.
"The possibilities for diplomacy, science and tourism is incalculable," said Hill, who also is the chief executive officer for Travel Southern Oregon.
"It offers incredible potential for the economy of Southern Oregon," she added. "China is arguably the biggest economic opportunity in modern history with a pent-up demand for travel."
Ackerman and Hill traveled to China Nov. 14-21 of last year to meet with Chinese officials in Wuyishan and tour the park. They also participated in the China International Travel Exposition in Shanghai. Among those joining them were Hank Hickox, general manager of the Bandon Dunes and Greg Eckhart, Asia manager for Travel Portland.
No tax dollars were spent for the trip, Ackerman stressed. The Crater Lake Natural History Association and the Crater Lake National Park Trust, both nonprofit groups, paid for all his travel and related expenses, he added.
The park service was urged to participate by the Oregon Tourism Commission and the Oregon Senate-House Ways and Means Committee.
Creating a sister park in China would benefit Oregon as well as the Crater Lake park, observed state Rep. Dennis Richardson, R-Central Point. Richardson, who was a co-chairman of the Senate-House Ways and Means Committee in the last session, is a member of the Oregon-Fujian Province Sister State Committee. The sister-state agreement between Oregon and the province was enacted in 1984.
"This is a much more famous park internationally than Crater Lake but there are similarities such as maintaining the natural resource beauty while allowing millions of people to visit each year," said Richardson who began visiting the region a decade ago on trade missions to promote business opportunities between the province and Oregon.
While the park in China doesn't have a volcanic caldera, it is spectacular, Richardson said.
"It's a beautiful mountain with rivers running through the valleys on all sides," he said. "It's a very beautiful part of China."
Located in northwest Fujian Province, the Mount Wuyi park was created in 1982. In addition to ancient temples and cliff carvings from all the Chinese dynasties, it is known for its rich biodiversity, the Nine-Bend River, 36 peaks, 99 rock outcroppings, the Taoyuan Cave and other sites, according to park literature.
Like Ackerman and Hill, Richardson said a sister park relationship would give Oregon an economic boost as well as provide educational opportunities.
"Both parks will advertise the other park to their visitors and promote each other," he said. "And placing Oregon as a travel destination for Chinese tourists would really help our economy."
Business opportunities between the province and Oregon have been expanding in recent years because of the interaction between the two states, he noted.
Hill, who also is on the Oregon-Fujian Province Sister State Committee, said Chinese officials they met were very interested in learning about Crater Lake.
"They expressed a lot of interest in educational exchanges," she said, adding, "We have some things to teach but a great deal to learn as well."
Ackerman, who gave officials from Fujian Province a tour of Crater Lake National Park in the winter of 2011, said the Chinese officials were excited about the prospect of creating a sister-park agreement.
"We would love to see them come back in August of this year," he said. "We would like to have the delegation see how we manage our park, then get down to specifics to see how we all would benefit from a sister-park agreement."
Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or e-mail him at email@example.com.