Fort Worden business plan to get another airing Thursday

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — Before the state Parks and Recreation Commission considers whether to approve or reject a business plan for a Fort Worden Lifelong Learning Center, the public will have one more chance to weigh in.

A public meeting set from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday at Fort Worden Commons “gives the public another chance to respond,” said Lela Hilton, a spokeswoman for the Fort Worden Lifelong Learning Center Public Development Authority, which created the business plan with an eye toward taking over that portion of the park by 2014.

“The parks commissioners have provided this extra opportunity to make their opinions known because most people won’t be able to travel to Snohomish [County],” Hilton said.

The State Parks commissioners will meet in The Longhouse at the Monroe Fairgrounds — which is at 14405 179th Ave. S.E. — from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 6.

They are expected to decide then if the business plan should go forward for the public development authority, or PDA, to oversee facilities comprising an educational “campus” at Fort Worden State Park.

The public can comment at that meeting.

The proposed business plan calls for a PDA startup fund of $250,000 to cover cash-flow projections during the first five years, adding that the money should come from both public and private resources.

It also calls for $300,000 from the PDA “to mobilize resources prior to any transition” for marketing, development of a reservation system, a website and initial staffing.

It says the city of Port Townsend, which created the PDA, has no financial obligation to it.

PDA staff is now working on ways to raise the total amount of $550,000, according to board member Scott Wilson, who is also publisher of the weekly Port Townsend Jefferson County Leader.

If the business plan is approved, the PDA will begin the development of a management plan that will assign various park-maintenance functions to either itself or the state parks system.

“If the plan is approved, there are a lot of details and nuances that need to be worked out,” Hilton said.

“Most of this has to do with building issues, such as plumbing, determining the point where the parks system is responsible for maintaining the pipes,” she added.

Hilton said the deadline for the management plan is the end of the fiscal year, June 30.

If approved, the co-management agreement would commence Jan. 1, 2014.

Under the plan, the State Parks system would continue to operate and maintain the campgrounds and park area, while the PDA would manage a lifelong learning center, which would consist of about 100 historical buildings.

The State Parks system’s potential contribution would depend on funding by the state Legislature, with the possibility that funding could be cut to zero, State Parks officials have said.

According to the plan, the 434-acre Fort Worden State Park draws more than 1 million visitors to the area each year and generates more than $11,600,000 in local and state revenues, not including the direct revenues of the park.

The PDA is proposing to take on all reservation services for accommodations, meeting rooms and campgrounds.

The plan also proposes that the public development authority manage the 16 tenant agreements in the state park.

Under the plan, the State Parks system would manage the campgrounds; serve as steward of natural, historic and cultural resources; oversee facility and infrastructure repair and maintenance; provide public access to beaches, trails and historic monuments; and provide law enforcement for the entire park.

For more information or to read the latest draft of the business plan, visit www.fwpda.org.

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

Last modified: November 27. 2012 6:03PM
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