Special meeting on Fort Worden’s future planned March 15

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

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PORT TOWNSEND — Questions raised during meeting last month about the potential role of the Lifelong Learning Center Public Development Authority in the management of Fort Worden State Park will be addressed at a special meeting later this month.

The meeting is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. March 15 at Fort Worden Commons.

“There are a lot of rumors,” said Dave Robison, the public development authority’s executive director.

“We want to respond to some of the questions that were raised [at the Feb. 17 meeting] and discuss any new developments.”

The PDA has been developing the idea of establishing a lifelong learning center at the park for eight years, looking to retrofit the existing buildings for educational purposes.

A proposal for the public development authority to take over the state park was discussed at a state Parks and Recreation Commission meeting Feb. 9.

The commission then tabled a proposed resolution to begin transfer of Fort Worden State Park’s ownership and management from state parks to the PDA, which was created by the city of Port Townsend but which is legally separate from it.

Instead, a public hearing on the proposal to transfer ownership and management of Fort Worden to the public development authority, or PDA, and possible action is planned at the commission’s next meeting, 9 a.m. March 29 at Fort Worden.

The public development authority hosted a public meeting on Feb. 17.

The March 15 meeting, will be “a great opportunity for the public to get current information on possible management changes at Fort Worden State Park and to meet PDA Board members and Washington State Parks staff,” said Gary Cummins, chairman of the Fort Worden Advisory Committee.

Robison said that neither the campground nor any other park facility would be closed under the proposal.

He added that one question that must be answered is whether current park employees would be able to retain their retirement and benefits if the park’s management changes hands.

“We are seeing what kind of assurances that we can provide,” Robison said.

More than 200 people attended the Feb. 17 meeting, which included a presentation by the PDA and a lengthy question period, although no answers were offered.

Many of those attending said they thought the PDA was rushing into a management agreement with the park and that the takeover should be in digestible bites and not all at once.

The PDA was also criticized for lacking a solid business plan.

Former park director Kate Burke began working on March 1 on a three-month consultant contract to prepare and refine the business plan.

Burke, Robison said, is not developing a business plan from scratch; rather it is a revision of a preliminary plan that was written in 2008 but never executed.

Robison said on Thursday that the PDA will soon announce the terms of Burke’s contract.

Allison Alderman is the new director of the state park. She began work last month after having displaced Burke when Alderman’s job as region operations manager in the State Parks Northwest Region Office was eliminated in December.

Whatever happens with regard to park management, Robison hopes that visitors won’t see a difference in services.

“There won’t be any major changes,” he said.

“We will want to make it as seamless as possible,” he said of any potential management changes.

“We want to bring in new partners and help the existing partners, bringing a new vitality to the park.”

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Jefferson County Reporter Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or charlie.bermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: March 05. 2012 6:23PM
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