‘Crown jewel’ Fort Worden touted by state parks commissioners

QUINAULT — The state Parks and Recreation Commission on Thursday tentatively approved the first-ever vision and mission statement for Fort Worden State Park.

Kate Burke, Fort Worden park manager, presented the proposal for what one commissioner called a “crown jewel” of the state parks system during a monthly commission meeting at Lake Quinault Lodge.

The vision statement reflects thoughts of more than 250 Port Townsend, Jefferson County and state residents, Burke said.

It incorporates the Fort Worden administration, the Centrum Foundation and the Fort Worden Advisory Committee, comprised of community and civic leaders, Burke said.

“I am always impressed by the synergy between the Port Townsend community and Fort Worden,” said Parks Commissioner Elliot Scull of Wenatchee.

“If Fort Worden was not there, Port Townsend would not be the same as it is now.”

After ironing out semantics, the real work begins with development of business and master plans for the 433-acre park and conference center, Burke said.

She pointed out that as a historical site, the park’s campus cannot dramatically change from its early 20th century Army appearance.

Instead, the business plan will help define how Fort Worden administration can meet the needs of its partners — such as tenants Centrum, Port Townsend Marine Science Center and Peninsula College’s Jefferson County facility — and community.

“We need to figure out how to operate the park more efficiently,” Burke said.

“We have a lot of duplication of our efforts as partners.”

Generating funds

Generating more funds for the park’s needs is another major issue, Burke told the commissioners.

She said she is expecting funding in July from the state’s Resource Planning Department to begin the business planning process.

The partnership organized a public process last January, which included a community workshop and e-mail broadcasts aimed at creating the Fort Worden vision and mission statement essentially approved by the state Parks and Recreation Commission on Thursday.

It describes the vision for the park as “a legendary gathering place where people are transformed through retreat, renewal and discovery.”

Mission statement revised

Unconditionally accepting the language for the vision statement, parks commissioners slightly reorganized the mission declaration.

The approved version reads:

“Fort Worden is Washington’s state park conference center for recreation, arts, culture, history and the environment. It is a confluence of creative learning, recreation and retreat opportunities for people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds.”

After unanimously approving the modified vision and mission statement, commissioners referred the document back to Fort Worden Advisory Committee for approval the commissioners’ changes.

“I like the pride that the statement exudes,” said Parks Commissioner Cecilia Vogt of Yakima.

Burke was equally pleased with the commissioners’ reception.

“They agreed with the mission statement, which is what we wanted to happen,” Burke said.

Major player statewide

Seen as a major potential money generator for the cash-strapped state parks system, Fort Worden continues to attract the parks commissioners’ attention.

“I think we are missing a huge opportunity for the next generation to create a crown jewel and generate some revenue,” said Parks Commissioner Joe Taller of Olympia.

“I’ve never seen a facility like [Fort Worden] that has so many things going on,” said Commission Chairman Mickey Fearn of Seattle.

“I think we need to spend some time talking about how special that place is.”

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