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$350,000 going to Crater Lake center

CRATER LAKE — The U.S. House of Representatives has included $350,000 in an appropriations bill to complete the design for a visitor education center on the rim of Crater Lake. The funding is necessary seed money for creating a state-of-the-art facility at Oregon's only national park, said Jeff Allen, executive director of the nonprofit Crater Lake National Park Trust, which works to protect, promote, and enhance the park. The trust has been working for years to secure funding for the center. Creation of the center has bipartisan support from Oregon's congressional delegation, he said.

"This is a big step," he said, noting the bill marks the first time Congress has included funding for the project. "Since its founding in 1902 as the sixth National Park in America, Crater Lake has done without high-quality interpretive facilities. With this bill, we are taking a giant step forward to fix that oversight."

The tentative plan calls for renovating the currently boarded-up 1928 "campers store" building to turn it into a visitor center covering some 5,000 square feet.

Cost of the construction, which would include a seismic upgrade, is expected to be $6 million or more, Allen said.

The project has the support of U.S Rep. Greg Walden, R-Hood River, whose 2nd Congressional District includes most of the park.

"Crater Lake is a beloved Oregon icon, and the new visitor center will enhance the visitor experience and highlight the park's spectacular scenery," he said in a prepared statement.

With nearly a half-million visitors coming to the park each year, contributing more than $30 million to the regional economy, Crater Lake is a major economic driver for Southern Oregon, he said.

"The new center will be a real plus to generating economic activity, and the region could sure use it right now," he added.

U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Portland, agreed.

"It draws people from across the state and around the nation, which is why this visitor's center is so important," he said. "By building a place where people can enjoy Crater Lake and learn about its origin, we are generating tourism revenue and providing an opportunity for all to enjoy."