Community gets chance Thursday to help Fort Worden State Park envision its future

PORT TOWNSEND — Sitting at her desk in her office at park headquarters, Kate Burke faces a wall filled with historic photographs and maps showing how Fort Worden State Park looked as an Army post in the first half of the 20th century.

From her office windows, she can look out on the parade ground flanked by the neat row of officers’ houses, booked from May to September, that are symbols of the fort’s current prosperity.

But what Burke, the area park manager, wants to see is the state park’s future.

And she wants the people who love the park — its beaches, trails and historical buildings — to help her see it.

“We want everybody who has ever stayed here, camped here, attended events or used the park in any way,” she said. “Each person is going to bring a different perspective of how they think of Fort Worden.”

Vision meeting Thursday

Starting with a public meeting Thursday, a shared vision will be created that will determine what the fort will look like in 10 years, Burke said.

A primary goal: help her make decisions about what partner organizations should be allowed to locate on fort grounds.

Right now, Fort Worden is home to Centrum, the Port Townsend Marine Science Center, the Coast Artillery Museum, Peninsula College and other organizations called park partners.

But Burke has a half-dozen offers on the table from arts, education, recreation, environmental groups and even state agencies which want to relocate on the fort grounds.

‘Great audience’

“What a lot of people look at is that the infrastructure we have and the great audience already coming out,” she said.

“They want to capture that audience.”

Defining a focus for the fort will allow her to make solid decisions instead of just filling buildings, Burke said.

And renting space on a year-round basis, while it brings in a steady income, has to be balanced with programs that support the state park’s primary role as a conference center, Burke said.

That means thinking of ways to draw people to the fort who rent the housing units and eat at the Commons dining hall not just in the summer.

“The biggest problem is this time of year,” she said.

“May to September is no problem — we pack them in. We need a flow of people coming through all year.”

That’s one of the underlying problems that Burke hopes Thursday’s vision planning meeting will help resolve.

“Creating the Fort Worden You Value for Now and Forever” is the theme of the public input meeting Thursday from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. in Fort Worden Commons, Company A Room, Fort Worden State Park in Port Townsend.

Snacks and beverages will be provided at 5:30 p.m.

For more information, call the state park office, 360-344-4400.

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