SEQUIM — The $4.5-million expansion of the Dungeness River Audubon Center began last week as surveyors arrived and crews began to clear the site.
The River Center is closed through September 2021 for both construction and safety during the pandemic, but programming continues online.
“Closure of the River Center couldn’t have been more fortuitous,” said Powell Jones, the center’s director, in a press release.
“Because of the pandemic we had to close the building, and staff is working from home. We’ve adapted to online programming. And public access to the building would have been closed off by construction for the next year anyway.
“We also needed to pack up over 1,000 specimens, the library, gift shop and office into storage during construction.”
Railroad Bridge Park, the lower parking lot and Olympic Discovery Trail remain open with closures as needed, Jones said.
The trail will be rerouted near the construction site to accommodate the new building and expanded infrastructure. Access to the railroad bridge crossing the Dungeness River is open.
The 5,900-square-foot expansion will include an atrium, meeting room, offices, classroom, commercial kitchen, gift shop, a concession area and storage.
The remodel of the existing building will provide dedicated interpretive and education space, the center’s specimen collection, wildlife observation room and reference library, and a children’s discovery area.
A new, paved and landscaped parking lot, with water run-off gardens and an entryway to the atrium, will be built on the east side of the new building.
Programming in the new building will include interpreting the natural world through lectures, lessons and presentations as well as nature-related music, art, film and other special events.
Members of the public also will be able to rent use of rooms and atrium for private weddings, parties and other gatherings when it is safe to do so.
New road construction through the center’s adjacent 5-acre field will accommodate the weight and traffic of load-bearing trucks to the building site, Jones said.
Silt fences have been installed along the perimeter of the project to protect neighboring properties and the Dungeness River from run-off before excavation begins in earnest, he said.
The project, with numerous subcontractors hired from the local area, is being overseen by the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe.
Any large trees removed from the construction site will be reused in restoration projects in and around Railroad Bridge Park, Jones said.
Access and parking from Hendrickson Road and through the field is permanently closed during construction.
The upper parking lot, adjacent to the Dungeness River Audubon Center, with one handicapped parking space, is also permanently closed.
Pavers from that lot have been removed and will be stored for future use, Jones said.
Public restrooms are closed, but portable toilets have been installed. Fresh water has been shut off.
Educational programming continues with hour-long lectures each week team-taught by Jones, educational coordinator Jenna Ziogas and invited guest lecturers.
Updated information will be posted on bulletin boards at the park, on the center’s Facebook page, website at dungnenessrivercenter.org and emailed directly to all members and donors of the River Center.
Memberships are $35 and include natural history lectures throughout the year via Zoom, and discounts on selected purchases through the center’s online bookstore.
Fundraising is ongoing to mitigate rising construction costs due to the pandemic. To donate, and for construction updates throughout the year, see the center’s website.