Current topics in archaeology, cultural heritage & historic preservation

Saturday, August 15, 2009

"Passage to the Columbia"

...those words capture the City of Washougal's vision for the new pedestrian tunnel that will re-link the core of the city to its waterfront on the Columbia River for the first time in over 40 years.

At the same time the tunnel (location outlined in yellow below) will honor the Indian tribes of the region with a display of important rock art images from across the Columbia Plateau.

When complete the tunnel will burrow under the buzzing traffic on Washington's Highway 14 and open into popular Steamboat Park, whose southern edge extends into the river with a series of popular docks used for fishing and boating.

Walkers who explore the length of the tunnel will find a series of 7 massive native basalt slabs (each weighing approximately 2,800 pounds) engraved with representations of symbols found in Plateau petroglyphs and pictographs.

The City has assembled a group, known as "the Petroglyph Team" to research and identify the images that will eventually grace the tunnel. Lead by artist Rex Ziak (at left with basalt slab) and City manager Nabiel Shawa the team includes students from Washougal High, Councilwoman Molly Coston, Parks Manager Suzanne Bachelder, parent Margaret McCarthy, rock art scholar and Klamath tribal member Robert David, myself and other volunteers.

On Friday, August 14, 2009 the Team visited the stone yard where the basalt slabs are being prepared . We saw a huge rock saw cutting one of our slabs from an enormous crystal of basalt and watched a skilled rock carver demonstrate how the images will be engraved into the surface of the stone.

The Team has looked at hundreds of images and has narrowed the choices down to about 75 finalists, a few of which are included here.

Construction of the tunnel is well underway although the actual slice through Hwy 14 has not yet occurred. Its pretty amazing how much prep work it takes to create something that seems so simple...smoothing the landscape, running utility lines under the street, preparing the surface outside the tunnel for human traffic, and more...all needing to be completed with a minimum of disruption to the traffic streaming by on the highway.

Stay tuned and watch the evolution of the tunnel and its Native American-inspired art...


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