Peninsula’s newest campus — Fort Worden Lifelong Learning Center — needs startup funding

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

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PORT TOWNSEND — The signing of a 50-year lease between the Lifelong Learning Center Public Development Authority and Washington State Parks begins a financial countdown.

Signing the lease, accomplished Friday, starts a 90-day countdown, which would be Feb. 6, for the public development authority to secure $300,000 for startup costs.

The lease specifies that the public development authority must establish a $250,000 line of credit within 60 days of the lease signing, and financial and marketing plans within 120 days.

Part of that has been accomplished.

It was announced Friday that First Federal had approved the credit line and had also made a $25,000 donation for operating expenses.

The lease sets up the structure for the public development authority’s management of the campus portions of the 434-acre park, which includes most of the buildings, for educational purposes, while State Parks continues to manage the camping, beach and recreation areas.

Signing it started a transition period leading up to a May 1 final transfer.

“Today, we are here to witness and celebrate the signing of a comanagement agreement that is like no other in Washington State Parks history,” said Fort Worden Park Manager Brian Hageman at Friday’s signing ceremony in the park’s Commons, which was attended by about 50 people.

“When talking about what it took to accomplish this task, one word comes to mind, and that is perseverance,” Hageman said.

The idea of the lifelong learning center was first proposed in 2004. It gained steam over just the last two years.

During discussions, a proposal for the parks system to transfer ownership of Fort Worden to the public development authority was rejected and a comanagement agreement was developed.

“There is a lot of optimism and energy that is represented in this agreement,” said PDA board chair Cindy Hill Finnie.

“We learned how to work together collaboratively, and we are looking forward to May 1, where we will provide an example of how parks can be operated in the state of Washington and across the country.”

The partnership already has had its “ups and downs,” according to Washington State Parks Department Director Don Hoch, “and was quite different than anything that State Parks had been involved in over our history.

“A level of trust and understanding between the partners was needed if we were going to be successful,” Hoch said.

An immediate goal is the hiring of a hospitality manager, said PDA Executive Director Dave Robison.

He hopes to fill that position by the beginning of next year.

Once that person is hired, the public development authority will begin assembling an estimated 13-member staff that will occupy space in Building 205, which also houses the park management offices and the Port Townsend Marine Science Center.

For more information, see fwpda.org.

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Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or cbermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: November 10. 2013 7:32PM
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