PORT TOWNSEND — The Friends of Fort Worden is seeking donations to support the park because the usual source of income been closed since March as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fort Worden State Park closed its facilities at the end of March due to Gov. Jay Inslee’s Stay Home, Stay Safe order. That included the gift shop.
Friends has decided to not reopen the shop at this point due to social distancing being almost impossible and to protect their older volunteers, said Terry LeLievre, Friends board president.
Because of the closure, LeLievre estimated Friends has lost between $5,000 and $6,000 in revenue, money that would have gone toward improving the park, he said.
“Fort Worden is one of the treasures of Port Townsend,” LeLievre said. “But the pandemic has created significant funding shortfalls for the groups normally responsible for maintaining and operating the park.”
Friends is working closely with park management, LeLievre said. The group also is working with the Fort Worden Public Development Authority and the park’s 14 other partner organizations to provide help where and when it can.
“The Friends bring so much support to Fort Worden,” said lead park ranger Brian Hageman, Olympic View Area manager for Washington State Parks, in a press release.
“They improve the trails, remove invasive species and provide interpretive walks. They also contribute directly to some great park improvements, such as the new bike racks, telescopes, tools and equipment.”
“With our limited state parks budget and staffing levels, the Friends of Fort Worden provide support for projects that enhance the experience of our park patrons.”
LeLievre explained that, in recent years, the group also has supported the park by developing and distributing trail maps, adding trail signs and installing eco-friendly water-bottle filling stations in the Commons and park administration.
As a result of the lost income, Friends has launched the donation campaign “Support the Fort!” in which people can either donate what they like, or look at a “wish list” that outlines how much each project is predicted to cost, LeLievre said.
Projects on the wish list include replacing rotting timber steps on trails with a $500 estimate, installing heavy-duty bicycle racks throughout the park with a $1,500 estimate, and more.
LeLievre expects the list to expand in the next week, he said.
To donate or to find the wish list, see www.fwfriends.org.
In addition to the donation campaign, Friends is working to build an online gift shop so they can start selling the Fort Worden-branded items again, and that store is expected to be available on the Friends’ website in the next few weeks, LeLievre said.
“We don’t have a big, round number,” LeLievre said. “We’re just out there trying to raise funds as we can here to help [the park] out.”
Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached by email at [email protected] or by phone at 360-385-2335, ext. 5.