New plates would celebrate Crater Lake – March 05, 2001

New plates would celebrate Crater Lake

Mail Tribune

Medford, Oregon
March 05, 2001
By DANI DODGE
Before long, you may not have to drive up 62 and past Beckie’s cafe to see Crater Lake. It’ll be on the car in front of you on I-5. At the Rogue Valley Mall. Maybe even in your own driveway.
OK, we’re not talking the actual Crater Lake. We’re talking Crater Lake National Park license plates.
So move over, Oregon Trail. Take a swim, Oregon Salmon. If Sen. Jason Atkinson has anything to say about it there’s gonna be a hot new plate in town.
“This is kind of a fun bill celebrating the park’s anniversary,” said Atkinson, a Republican from Jacksonville who sponsored the bill to create the new license plate. “What we are doing is saying one of the greatest national parks in our country, and perhaps the world, is having its 100th birthday and we want to celebrate it.”

Crater Lake was formed 7,700 years ago when Mount Mazama erupted and then collapsed back into itself. President Theodore Roosevelt signed a bill making Crater Lake a national park — the only one in Oregon — on May 22, 1902. It is the deepest lake in the United States.
A scientist studying the park’s vegetation and animal life suggested the license plates as part of the park’s centennial celebration, said Park Superintendent Chuck Lundy.
The plates will cost $10 each, or $20 extra per vehicle. Everything collected over the estimated $130,000 cost of producing the specialty plate will go to projects in the park — like building a Science and Learning Center to housing visiting scientists and developing programs for school-aged children.
“The people of Oregon have a special relationship with Crater Lake,” said Lundy. “It’s a bit of a love affair — a sense of ownership and concern — that I haven’t found in the other states where I have been assigned.
“I think because of that fact and because it will allow people in the state to be part of the centennial. … I think there will some real interest in having that plate.”
The bill to create the Crater Lake plate has already been heard in the state’s transportation committee and is slated to go to the Senate Ways and Means Committee in the next few weeks.
Atkinson sponsored the bill at the request of Lundy and Klamath County Commissioner Steve West. After the citizens advisory committee agreed with the scientist that the plates were a good idea, West got the job of trying to shepherd the plan through all the proper channels.
“Its really a pleasure to deal with something fun,” West said. “It makes up for all the nasty things I deal with all the time.”
But don’t get him wrong — the licensing isn’t just a fun-and-games kind of thing. West expects it could raise $1 million for Crater Lake. And coincidentally, that’s the estimate of what it will cost to renovate the park’s former superintendent’s residence — a place already listed as a national historic landmark — into a science center.
Anything more than $1 million collected will be used for other Crater Lake park projects.
Similar license plate programs have been successful, both in California and Oregon. California sold about 50,000 Yosemite National Park license plates and used the proceeds to fund conservation projects at the park.
In Oregon, about 500,000 Oregon Trail license plates were sold from 1993 to 1997. The plates cost $5 each, or $10 per car, and generated $2.5 million. The Oregon Salmon license plate was authorized by the Legislature in 1997. About 30,000 of the $15 plates were sold, producing about $900,000. Those funds are divided between salmon recovery programs and state park programs.
After the plate wins the approval of the Legislature, it would be designed in a collaborative effort between Department of Transportation and the National Park Service.
“I would hope we could … approximate that amazing color of blue,” Lundy said. “If we’re not able to have a license plate to express Crater Lake, we’ll have missed the point.”
The plate would only be available through June 2004.
Crater Lake plate enthusiasts say they have support statewide for their plan.
“I think you’ll see people — who have never participated in a specialty plate — buy this one,” West said. “Crater lake belongs to everyone in Oregon.
“It will be a great opportunity to show their pride in their national park.”
Reach reporter Dani Dodge at 776-4471, or e-mail ddodge@mailtribune.com

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