Fort Worden State Park as viewed from the top of the trails leading up into the bunker system at the old fort. -- Photo by Erik Hidle/Peninsula Daily News

Fort Worden first project for Port Townsend’s public development authority

PORT TOWNSEND — The city of Port Townsend’s public development authority has identified its first project: Fort Worden State Park.

The authority, a nonprofit entity separate from the city, was created by the Port Townsend City Council in September to focus on five goals: preserving historic assets, developing affordable housing, preserving public assets, preserving public places and fulfilling any other projects designated by council.

Meanwhile, the first step has been taken toward a collaboration between Fort Worden and Centrum, a nonprofit center for the arts located at the state park near Port Townsend.

The State Parks Commission has approved a memorandum of understanding with Centrum identifying milestones both sides must meet by June 30, 2011, if a long-term management agreement at Fort Worden is to be discussed.

The state’s goal is to eventually have Centrum manage Fort Worden as a lifelong learning center, with year-round programs in arts, crafts and music.

Port Townsend City Manager David Timmons said the authority’s first job would be to help Centrum its part of the bargain.

“We still have some things to do,” Timmons said.

The City Council must appoint a board of directors for the PDA, a task Timmons expects to see completed in January, and then work with fort officials over the next six months.

“But the intent is to have the PDA help them meet those milestones over the next two years,” Timmons said. “It’s beneficial to the city and the fort to work together.”

Important to city economy

Fort Worden is an important part of Port Townsend’s economic strategy, Timmons said, since it provides about 25 percent of the city’s lodging tax income.

It is also a key historical asset for the city — a primary focus of the authority’s mission.

“The idea is that this gives the PDA some critical standing it will need as it begins to focus on taking on it’s other goals such as affordable housing and historic preservation,” Timmons said.

“So we will see what we can do to help them meet the milestones and better manage the fort.”

The memorandum of understanding is in line with the state parks agency’s Centennial 2013 Plan to have Centrum step into an operating role at Fort Worden.

PDA interim director

Timmons said the city is considering Thatcher Bailey, former Centrum director, as interim director of the public development authority.

Bailey now is a consultant to the Fort Worden Collaborative, which aims to create the new leadership at Fort Worden.

“It’s been talked about, but it hasn’t been finalized yet,” Bailey said.

“Really, this is all about keeping the park going strong and making it better.

“It’s terrific the city is so interested in helping to make that happen, as they are going to make the project easier to complete.”

Timmons said he expects the authority to focus on Fort Worden for about two years before moving on to other projects.

Also being discussed as potential projects for the authority are the sale of a historic home seized in a drug bust forfeiture, the creation of affordable housing, and a bid to keep the Customs House, built in 1893, in the public domain as the U.S. Postal Service seeks to move to a different facility.

Timmons said that a long-term plan for projects would be laid out by the end of January.

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Reporter Erik Hidle can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at erik.hidle@peninsuladailynews.com.

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