The North Coast is working to become a designated National Heritage Area.

And here's where you come in ...

Because it's not about telling you what kind of windows you have to put on your house or making sure everyone's lawn is of a pious height.

It means sewing together the area's past, present and future, says Zetty McKay, owner of the Astoria coffee shop Coffee Girl and a member of the team.

It means celebrating and understanding and developing a sense of place.

In short, it's about you - because you live here.

And by "here" organizers mean: in Oregon, the divide between the Columbia and Nehalem River watersheds, including towns from Cannon Beach and Hammond and slanting to the northeast to Westport; in Washington, reaching north at Oysterville and traveling to the Wahkiakum County's east border.

"It's a sense of place and it's a place of character and that's what the (national heritage areas) are about," said state Sen. Betsy Johnson, D-Scappoose, who was present at a public comment meeting Tuesday.

In an area with a strong and living memory of its history, the national heritage designation can provide an even greater sense of stewardship and pride, and make it more of an attraction to visitors, the group maintains. It's a mix of heritage and economics.

"We want to keep farmers farming, loggers in the woods and sustain a really vibrant visitor and tourist center and ensure ... that we have a sound environment to do that in," said Mike Dickerson, executive vice president of ShoreBank Enterprise Cascadia, of Ilwaco, Wash.

The bank is the proposed coordinating entity for the NHA designation. It will be managing the heritage area if and when it is officially designated.

Every heritage area is managed differently and the decision about how to manage is decided through a public process.

What started as an idea at a Lewis and Clark bicentennial meeting in 2006 has become a full-blown project complete with a team and a draft feasibility study needing approval from Washington, D.C.

The final decision is still a ways off. The feasibility study is basically a presentation, showing why the area qualifies as a national heritage area. Once the study is sent, it's up to leaders in Washington, D.C., to decide what happens next with the proposed Columbia-Pacific National Heritage Area.

If the plan is approved, the group will be asked to create an implementation plan.

The National Park Service staff at Fort Clatsop is seeking public comment on the feasibility study and has arranged for a series of meetings.

The first meeting was Tuesday night in Astoria, but there are still three more meetings, all from 6 to 8 p.m. on the scheduled days:

? Thursday at the Bob Chisholm Community Center, 1225 Avenue A, Seaside.

? Tuesday at the River Street Meeting Room, 25 River Street, Cathlamet.

? April 15 at the Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum, 115 SE Lake St., Ilwaco.

The draft feasibility study is available at (www.nps.gov/lewi) and it can also be downloaded through NPS's partner organization for the study, ShoreBank Enterprise Cascadia, at www.columbiapacificnha.org.

For information about the draft study, contact David Szymanski, Lewis and Clark National Historical Park superintendent, at (503) 861-2471, ext. 401, or at (lewi_superintendent@nps.gov). Comments on the draft feasibility study will be accepted for the rest of April.

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