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Dungeness River Center director takes new land manager position with Jamestown Tribe

Sequim High graduate to work with Jamestown Tribe

SEQUIM — After more than two decades with the Dungeness River Nature Center — the past 12 as its director — Powell Jones is shifting into a new regional role.

Jones will relinquish his position as the center’s director and park manager at the end of April to take another position with the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe as its land stewardship manager, overseeing numerous conservation properties on the North Olympic Peninsula, including Railroad Bridge Park.

Powell Jones
“I am so grateful for continued and growing support that (visitors) have shown the (Dungeness River Nature Center) and to myself as director,” Jones stated in a press release. “Without your belief, and the support that comes with it, the center would not be in the wonderful position it is today. Together we have made a huge impact in our community and beyond.”

Jones, a Sequim High School graduate, said in an interview that he started with AmeriCorps in 2002, working at the River Center before he was hired as an education coordinator under a National Audubon Society grant.

In 2008, he and other River Center staff became tribal employees, and in 2012 he became the center’s director.

As he grew up, Jones said his grandmother enjoyed National Geographic and the Audubon Society, and since he was 10 or 11 he thought he was going to work for one or the other.

“I held onto that through college, and [the AmeriCorps job] fell into my lap,” he said.

He was working in Alaska at the time when his wife Laura got a teaching job in Sequim.

“I wasn’t planning on coming back, but I’m glad I did, because all my closest friends from high school ended back up in Sequim, too,” Jones said.

It’s meant a lot to him to see the River Center and park grow.

“Being from here, it’s been incredible,” he said, attributing that growth to efforts of staff and volunteers.

“I don’t think I would have imagined it looking anything like this in 2016. So to see it come this far, I’m extremely proud of it.”

River Center

The River Center, at 1943 W. Hendrickson Road, opened in 2001 as the Dungeness River Audubon Center through partnerships between the Olympic Peninsula Audubon Society, National Audubon Society and Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe.

Community members worked to purchase the Railroad Bridge and a half-mile right-of-way as Railroad Bridge Park, also the first piece of the Olympic Discovery Trail in Clallam County.

The tribe assumed responsibility for the awarded grants and ownership of the land and buildings, expanding the park by 10 acres east of the river to house the Sequim Natural History Museum.

The center started as an idea by Annette and Mark Hanson to construct the Sequim Natural History Museum in 1984, an entire model watershed from mountain to sea, filled with specimens of the flora and fauna in floor-to-ceiling dioramas.

As he reflected on the River Center’s transformation in 2022 following massive renovations, Jones said he loves he “got to help people’s dreams come to fruition.”

He added that he’s proud of the dedicated exhibit space and that he lobbied for the outdoor cedar hat classroom.

“As an educator, I love that space,” he said.

Search

The search for a new director is underway with the tribe posting the position on its website.

A final selection of a new director will be made by the River Center’s board of directors.

For more information, visit jamestowntribe.org/careers.

Jones said he hopes the new director won’t feel the need to fill his shoes, as they should walk their own path.

“When it was (renovated), there was a lot of talk about it becoming a world-class nature center, and now the world needs to know about it,” he said.

“The next person has a lot of opportunities to do that. The world is wide open for the center.”

Overseeing Railroad Bridge Park, Jones said it’s also world-class showing people how to treat rivers and their properties.

“My next step is to have the park meet the same level of excellence that the building and center do, too,” he said.

Jones said the land stewardship manager position is in part what he is assigned to do now.

“As director and park manager, there’s not a lot of time to do the parks part, and the Railroad Bridge Park deserves more,” he said.

For his new position, Jones said he will look to help enhance habitat, maintain and improve recreational opportunities and assist in monitoring these conservation properties over time at Jamestown properties along the Dungeness River, on the Miller Peninsula and more.

“Looking at all these pieces of land that are being restored interests me,” he said.

For more about the Dungeness River Nature Center, visit dungenessrivercenter.org.

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Matthew Nash is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach him at mnash@sequimgazette.com.

Sequim Gazette Editor Michael Dashiell contributed to this story.

Powell Jones, executive director of the Dungeness River Audubon Center, shows students how to use tools like a McLeod for clearing trail in 2017. (Matthew Nash/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

Powell Jones, executive director of the Dungeness River Audubon Center, shows students how to use tools like a McLeod for clearing trail in 2017. (Matthew Nash/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

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