State pass waived for PDA-managed sites

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

THE FORT WORDEN Lifelong Learning Center Public Development Authority board will interview applicants for two vacant board positions at 8:30 a.m. today.

The board will meet at the Cotton Building, 607 Water St., Port Townsend, to interview the four applicants: Herb Cook, Bill Jackson, Bill James and Ron Kubec.

The two selected will replace Tim Caldwell, who finished his term, and Ted Springstead, who moved out of the area.

Peninsula Daily News
By Charlie Bermant

Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — Visitors to facilities managed by the Fort Worden Lifelong Learning Center Public Development Authority will not have to display Discover Passes in their vehicles, the Port Townsend City Council was told this week.

Dave Robison, executive director of the public development authority, told the council Monday that visitors to buildings managed by the PDA will be exempt from the state requirement once the transition to a co-management plan is finished by the first of 2014.

Discover Passes will be required for areas of Fort Worden State Park that are managed by the state, Robison said.

Robinson was among those who updated the council Monday night on plans for Fort Worden.

The idea that some areas would not have a Discover Pass requirement drew a skeptical response from Deputy Mayor Kris Nelson.

“I say good luck to you when people figure out that they don’t need the pass for certain areas,” Nelson said.

“The unintended consequences of this will be interesting.”

Said Robison after the meeting: “There will always be people who are looking for a free ride or, in this case, a free walk. That’s a cost of doing business.

“But our goal as the PDA will be to market the Discover Pass and aggressively support the state parks.”

Under the plan, the PDA will manage the campus area, which is about one-fourth of the 434-acre park and which contains most of the buildings, which date back to 1904.

State Parks will continue management of the recreational component, including the campgrounds, Chinese gardens, trails, lighthouse and shoreline, though the PDA will be involved in the promotion of the park facilities.

Robison said the specifics of the co-management plan will be developed during the first half of this year, while the second half of 2013 will be devoted to the plan’s implementation.

The plan itself will take effect Jan. 1 as 2014 begins.

In preparation, the PDA must raise $550,000, Robison said — $300,000 for preparation and the remainder to begin operations.

The initial $300,000 will be raised through grants and private donors, and can be easily accomplished, he said.

The PDA seeks to develop the partners who already are tenants, such as Centrum and Goddard College, while soliciting new businesses to relocate to the park, Robison said.

One of these could be a hotel chain, but that would involve the retrofit of existing buildings rather than the construction of anything new, he said.

Income from the state is uncertain, Robison said, adding that the state Legislature’s allocation during the upcoming session will directly affect Fort Worden’s financial future.

“If the Legislature gives the parks nothing, as they have threatened to do, it will affect the partnership, and we will have to rethink the future of the partnership,” Robison said.

The State Park System implemented the Discover Pass in 2011 to offset park expenses statewide, but it did not meet sales projections.

Revenue through the end of 2011 was $8.2 million, the state said, while the revenue projection was $19.38 million.

And it didn’t improve in 2012, the state has said.

Revenues fell about $4.7 million short of expectations for the months of June through September 2012, State Parks has said.

The $30-a-year Discover Pass is required on motor vehicles accessing state parks and other state-managed recreation lands. For more information, visit www.discoverpass.wa.gov.

The idea of the Lifelong Learning Center, which was brought up as far back as 1972, was fueled by action in 2012, PDA board members and staff told the council Monday.

“Fort Worden is the economic driver for the city of Port Townsend,” said Cindy Hill Finnie, chairwoman of the Lifelong Learning Center Public Development Authority, who has served on the board since it was established in 2009.

“The State Parks budget cuts have caused a lot of stress at the park, but for us, it has created a lot of opportunities,” Finnie said.

After the layoff of Park Manager Kate Burke were a series of public meetings, the development of a business plan and the approval of a co-management agreement between the parks system and the PDA by the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission in December.

“It’s hard to believe that it’s been only 12 months because so much has happened,” said Scott Wilson, vice chairman of the PDA board and editor and publisher of the weekly Port Townsend/Jefferson County Leader.

“It completed the vision that began in 1972 and moved the idea from a concept to something that is close to reality,” Wilson said.

He added that the co-management agreement will be a test case for other states considering the development of public-private partnerships.

“Fort Worden is unique because there is no state park anywhere that has this kind of assets,” Wilson said.

For more information and to see a copy of the business plan, visit www.fwpda.org.

Last modified: January 08. 2013 6:07PM
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