Efforts to build a new interpretive center and redesign the grounds of the Astoria Column could receive a sizable boost from the federal government now that U.S. Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., has earmarked $100,000 for the project in a Senate appropriations bill.

Carolyne Mullen, a spokeswoman for Smith, said the bill with funding for the Column has moved out of a Senate committee and will be voted on by the full senate soon. It will then go into the conference process where lawmakers work out differences between the Senate and House versions.

Mullen said as far as she knew there was no similar appropriation for Column funding in the House bill, but she said it's likely that the $100,000 should be part of the final version.

Work has already begun on some landscaping changes at the Column that include new grass turf, an irrigation system and benches. Next year, workers will reduce the parking area.

The interpretive center is planned to be about 5,200 square feet and built into the side of Coxcomb Hill. It will be designed to guide visitors through the history of the Column and of the lower Columbia River region. Landscaping and the center are expected to cost about $6.5 million.

To date, Kevin Beck, the city's parks director, said members of the Friends of the Astoria Column have raised $1.8 million for the effort.

Other fund-raising efforts include a $100 memorial paver stone campaign and a Portland fund-raiser in the fall to draw on statewide support for the Column, Beck said.


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