To the editor:
Thank you for your thoughtful editorial on July 1 (“The roar of promises”) about the Confluence Project’s Celilo Park art installation by Maya Lin. As the new executive director of the Confluence Project, I can tell you that community support is critical to the success of our work. We especially appreciate your recognition that future generations need to know about Celilo Falls. At it’s core, this project is about connecting visitors and residents alike with the history, cultures and ecology of the Columbia River system. Celilo Falls is central to that story.
I also want to thank you for your advice about predicting how many visitors may be drawn to the area because of this work. As you point out, the experience of the The Discovery Center is a cautionary tale about raising expectations. You should know that our past estimates of 400,000 and as many as 500,000 visitors to the completed Celilo Park project were based on the experience of the other Confluence Project sites. These projections took into account the current number of visitors at Celilo Park, available parking and the distance of the site from large population centers. But there is no question that projections are, by their very nature, limited.
The truth is no one can accurately predict how many visitors will come to this area to see Maya Lin’s curved, elevated walkway after it is complete in 2016. The site is unique. The economy could change. Gas prices affect travel. Many people know Maya Lin’s work but others don’t. Regardless, we are committed to being open about what we know and, just as importantly, what we don’t know. It will help that because of the highway improvements included in this project, Western Federal Highways plans a formal traffic study on Celilo Park. This will yield important information for us all.
Thank you for your continued support for this project. As you point out, this recognition of Celilo Falls is far too long in coming.