One of the most significant milestones for Richmond's national park arrives this weekend with the opening of a 12,000-square-foot visitors center near the city's shoreline.

The long-awaited Visitor Education Center for the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park will be dedicated at a celebration from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday in the historic Oil House at the Ford Point building, 1414 Harbour Way South.

From that day on, visitors to the park will finally have a single starting point for learning about the park and the role the city plays in representing the home front experience of World War II.

"I think that certainly people have been waiting for this moment since the park was established," said Tom Leatherman, superintendent of the local national park unit. "I tell people it's not the end of the journey, it's the beginning. It's the launching of the park, in a lot of ways, because now we have a place we can direct people out from."

Preceding the ceremonial ribbon-cutting will be a Native American blessing of the site and the performance of "The Star-Spangled Banner" by a singer from the East Bay Center for the Performing Arts.

Then it will be time for tours of the center, ranger-guided walking tours of shoreline sights, talks geared for young people and other festivities.


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Roses and others who were active on the home front are encouraged to attend, and park staff and representatives of the Regional Oral History Office at UC Berkeley will meet with potential oral history candidates.

The center is the key to explaining the significance of the war years, Leatherman said, including groundbreaking programs that originated in Richmond such as child care and health care, as well as wartime self-sufficiency measures such as recycling and growing food in Victory Gardens.

"The story was really a national story," he said. "The challenge now is that we have a building and have a home is how to turn this into a platform to discuss this national story."

The 7,000-square-foot main floor will have interim exhibits and a book and gift shop run by the Rosie the Riveter Trust. The 5,000-square-foot basement has a 50-seat theater where an orientation film and other presentations can be shown and a classroom/meeting space.

Volunteer docents have been training for weeks to staff the center, which will be open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week.

The interior of the building "is a restoration to behold," said park Ranger Betty Reid Soskin. "All of the industrial wonder that was originally built in to the old Oil House has been combined with today's state-of-the-art technology, and the result is stunning."

The center opening is just part of the gala festivities Saturday in Richmond.

At 1 p.m., city and regional officials will gather on Canal Boulevard in the Port of Richmond to dedicate a new 2-mile section of the Bay Trail. Following the dedication, a foot and bicycle parade will take the trail to the site of historic Kaiser Shipyard No. 3 and the SS Red Oak Victory, where there will be free tours and complimentary valet bicycle parking.

"This decade-plus-long Bay Trail project tells an amazing story involving the Port of Richmond working with (the Trails for Richmond Access Committee) to find a way to incorporate the Bay Trail into sustainable port operations," said Bruce Beyaert of the access committee.

To RSVP for the trail dedication, send an email to tracbaytrail@earthlink.net or call 510-215-4600.

Early risers can take part in a morning bike ride of historic Rosie the Riveter sites. Riders will meet at 9 a.m. the Craneway Pavilion at Ford Point.

For details on the ride, visit http://on.fb.me/L9kuQ7.

The kickoff event to the gala weekend is the "Rosie's Big Bash," a concert with swing group Big Bad Voodoo Daddy at 7 p.m. Friday at the Craneway Pavilion, 1414 Harbour Way South.

Tickets are $19.42 for students, veterans and active military personnel, $35 general and $250 VIP, available at craneway.inticketing.com.

IF YOU GO
What: Opening of Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park.
When: 10 to 5 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Ford Point building, 1414 Harbour Way South.