Development authority sets two options for management of lifelong learning center at Fort Worden

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

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PORT TOWNSEND — The development of a plan for running a lifelong learning center at Fort Worden State Park moved closer toward fruition this week as public development authority board members discussed options for a partnership with the state.

“We accomplished what we set out to do,” said Dave Robison, executive director of the Lifelong Learning Center Public Development Authority, or PDA.

“We focused on what the management of the park will look like in a partnership between the PDA and the state parks,” during a daylong retreat Monday.

The retreat was the latest in a series of meetings, which included two public meetings with the PDA and one with the state Parks and Recreation Commission, about the disposition of the non-recreational portions of the park.

Previous plans offered five options for the park, but one — transferring it to the PDA — was ruled out March 28, when the state Parks and Recreation Commission said that Fort Worden would always be a state park and there would be no transfer of ownership.

That position was reiterated early Monday, when Parks and Recreation Commissioner Roger Schmidt emphasized that Fort Worden always should offer what people expect of a state park.

“Whatever we do with the lifelong learning center, we need to keep traditional park values in mind,” Schmidt said.

A lifelong learning center is envisioned as part of the state park is developed into an academic campus that offers educational and recreational options.

The board now has settled on two potential plans, which are hybrids of the four remaining plans.

The first option includes leasing out several buildings that are now used for storage and renovating them to generate revenue.

The PDA also would operate food and concession services, marketing and programming under that option.

The second option concentrates on managing the campus area of Fort Worden, with the transfer to the PDA of all existing leases and leaseholders.

The board intends to refine these plans and present them at a public meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 17 in the Cotton Building at 607 Water St., “if it is available,” Robison said.

After the meeting, the board plans to hire a consultant to develop a business plan for operation of the lifelong learning center.

It must present such a plan to the state Parks and Recreation Commission prior to Sept. 1.

Kate Burke, who was bumped from her position as park director in January, was paid $21,000 to revise a 2008 business plan.

Originally, the idea was to use the business to facilitate the transfer of the park to the PDA — a proposal that is no longer an option.

But Burke’s revisions can be incorporated into the new business plan which will be developed by a separate consultant who is more experienced in that area, board members said.

State Parks commissioners have said that the agency will do anything possible to help the PDA develop a business plan.

Robison estimated that the new business plan would cost about $25,000, for which money will need to be raised.

Since fundraising isn’t part of the PDA’s charter, the board discussed the idea of establishing a fundraising committee.

Adding new committees would require adding more board members and that would require approval by the Port Townsend City Council, Robison said.

“Over the next 30 days, we need to find the people we can have a conversation with about contributing,” said Cindy Finnie, chairwoman of the public development authority board.

“Before this, we didn’t want to knock on people’s doors and ask for money because it takes away from other organizations, but this is the time that we need to ask people to dig into their pockets.”

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

Last modified: May 08. 2012 3:37PM
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