By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News
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“A lot has happened,” said Scott Wilson, public development authority board member, at a Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce meeting Monday.
“We have held more than 20 public meetings and have received extensive responses from the community about how to proceed,” said Wilson, who is also the publisher of the weekly Port Townsend Leader.
About 60 people attended the presentation, which is part of an outreach process by the public development authority to explain and refine the proposal before the final version is presented to the state Parks and Recreation Commission on Oct. 25.
Prior to that, the PDA will meet Wednesday and Oct. 9 to discuss the business plan. Both meetings will begin at 8:30 a.m. at the Cotton Building, 607 Water St., Port Townsend.
A presentation is planned is at 6:15 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 10 at the Jefferson County Library, 620 Cedar Ave., Port Hadlock.
The original schedule called for a series of meetings at service groups during October, but many groups are booked with election coverage, said Dave Robison, executive director of the public development authority.
The basis of the proposal is to work out a comanagement arrangement with the state park system, Robison said.
He added that the partnership is uncertain, since legislative funding is up in the air.
“The parks are moving toward an enterprise system, but they don't know if they will get zero from the Legislature or $18 million as they have requested,” Robison said.
“They've already laid off 175 rangers [statewide], and the Discover Pass is bringing in about half of the revenue they projected.”
Robison said he hoped the partnership would set an example for the rest of the park system as well as parks across the country.
The plan is for the parks system to continue to maintain park function such as camping while transferring the management of its approximately 100 historical buildings to the public development authority.
“The challenge is how we will maintain these buildings, which are in various stages of disrepair and decay, and how we maintain the level of service,” Robison said.
“And we don't know how we will raise the $89 million that will be needed over the next 25 years to make these repairs,” he added.
In the short term, the PDA's plan centers around strengthening the position of current clients at the fort while bringing in new partners to fill the space during the winter months.
“The fort is already full during the summer months with all the festivals,” Robison said.
“We want to bring partners in during the colder months so we can keep people coming.”
This will require some renovations to make the drafty buildings more comfortable.
But turning the now-rustic accommodations into something more luxurious will also encourage people to stay over, Robison said.
While the completed plan will be submitted to the state commission at its Oct. 25 meeting in Vancouver, Wash., it will not be acted upon until the Dec. 5 meeting at a location yet to be decided.
If the commission turns down the plan, the park will continue under its current operational structure.
If the plan is approved, a management agreement will be prepared in the first quarter of 2013, followed by a “mobilization period,” where specifics will be determined.
Under this schedule, the comanagement agreement would commence in January 2014.
To invite a PDA representative to make a presentation, call Robison at 360-643-1770 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jefferson County Reporter Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at email@example.com.