WAHOUGAL, WA-The Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area is about to get an official shopping area. Federal officials are working on plans for a $6.9 million visitors center southeast of this riverbank city in the Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge, near the entrance to the 292,615-acre Scenic Area.

The center would feature trails, interpretive kiosks, an elevated viewing structure, classrooms, a gift shop, and the obligatory restrooms and parking. The 1992 master plan for the 83-mile long scenic area, which was created in 1986, called for developing facilities on both the Oregon and Washington side of the Columbia River gorge. The developments were put on hold in favor of acquiring more land, until now.

Officials eventually hope to build four gateway projects, though the Steigerwald project is the only one currently in the planning process. Specific plans will be brought before Congress next year. If approved, construction would begin and end in 2002. Fletcher Farr Ayotte architects and Greenworks landscape architects, both from Portland, are designing the project.

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