Free rides offered Saturday, Sunday; official service kicks off MondayJoe Scovell got an unusual surprise when the first Lewis and Clark Explorer Shuttle buses pulled into the new Netul Landing shuttle stop last Saturday. The Clatsop-Nehalem Tribe member found the face of his great-grandmother displayed on the side of the vehicles.

The vintage photograph of Scovell's ancestor is one of two historic images of local Native Americans gracing the new buses, which will carry visitors to Fort Clatsop National Memorial beginning this weekend.

The new shuttle system is set to begin service Monday as part of the new reserved-ticket admission system to the park. But Sunset Empire Transportation District, the shuttle operator, will offer free rides on the buses Saturday and Sunday.

It's an opportunity to give local residents a chance to visit the park before the new ticketing system begins - and for the district to work out any remaining kinks in the new service, according to SETD director Cindy Howe.

The shuttle will provide, in partnership with Pacific Transit System, regular scheduled service to and from Fort Clatsop and various sites around Clatsop and Pacific counties.

Part of the planning process for the shuttle, Howe said, was coming up with an eye-catching design for the new "wrap" decals covering the sides of the buses. Sunset Empire worked with staff at Fort Clatsop, who dug through the park's extensive photo collection for the two vintage pictures of local tribal members.

The photos were sent to Tim Gillespie of Gillespie Decals in Portland, who redrew and enlarged the images for the Explorer Shuttle buses. They're part of a collage of images including portraits of Lewis and Clark, maps, salmon, native canoes and Fort Clatsop.

"We spent two years working on just the right design," Howe said, adding that Gillespie has won awards for his other artwork on SETD buses.

Scovell noticed the photo of his great-grandmother at Saturday's dedication of the new Netul Landing shuttle stop, where he was one of several dignitaries invited to speak.

"I saw one of the shuttle buses coming to the Landing and I was surprised and thrilled to see the picture placed on the bus's side. It was of my great grandmother, her youngest daughter and some other Indian members," he said in an e-mail message to Fort Clatsop Superintendent Chip Jenkins.

The new ticket-and-shuttle system will operate through Labor Day, and again in the summer of 2005 and 2006. It was designed so that the crowds anticipated for the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial over the next three summers don't overwhelm the park and its centerpiece, the tiny replica fort.

Under the new entry system, visitors to Fort Clatsop buy reserved tickets that will allow them entry to the park at a set time. The park's parking lot will be closed, and visitors will instead take the Explorer Shuttle buses, which will carry them to Netul Landing, a half-mile south of the park, for transfer to a shuttle into Fort Clatsop itself.

Jenkins said it's important for visitors - locals and tourists - to know that visiting the park under the new system won't be a challenge. Visitors who don't get a reserved ticket can still come to Fort Clatsop by driving to Netul Landing, where they can wait for an available space in the park.

"It's like going to a restaurant - some people like to get reservations, other people just like to show up," he said.

The ticket system is designed to limit the number of people entering the park to about 150 per hour. But Jenkins said park staff only expect to hit that number this summer during some weekends in July and in August. For the first few weeks of the system, visitors who simply wish to drive to Netul Landing should be able to park there and jump on the first shuttle into the park without buying an advance ticket.

"There's been a lot of talk about 'you can't drive to Fort Clatsop anymore,'" he said. "But you can drive to Netul Landing."

The $5 reserved tickets serve as both admission to the park and as three-day passes on the shuttle, which visits other area attractions such as Cape Disappointment State Park in Washington, Fort Stevens State Park, the Astoria Column, the saltworks in Seaside and Ecola State Park in Cannon Beach.

The tickets can be purchased at local visitor centers, by phone at (800) 967-2283 or online at ( Bus schedules are available on the Web at (, and printed copies can be picked up at the transit center, chamber of commerce offices, local hotels and other outlets, and from bus drivers

Normally visitors will have to buy their Fort Clatsop tickets at least two hours before the time they wish to visit the park. But Howe said the transit center will be able to contact Fort Clatsop and sell tickets less than two hours prior if space is available.

The shuttle is a brand-new service for Sunset Empire and Fort Clatsop, and while the district has tried to anticipate most problems, it's likely there will be some glitches during the first few days, Howe said, and the district wants to hear about them.

"The only way we'll know what works and doesn't work is if people let us know," she said.


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