PORT TOWNSEND — Community members and local leaders attended a two-day workshop to jump-start work on upgrading the Mountain View Commons into both a recreational hub for all ages and an emergency preparedness station for the community.
The workshops Thursday and Friday were led by consultants brought in by the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as part of its Healthy People Healthy Community program.
The two-day workshop at the gym at Mountain View Commons at 1925 Blaine St. was meant to help to identify a vision for, and the potential challenges in creating, a community health center on the 7-acre campus, according to Jeff Randall, a new YMCA employee, a commissioner with Jefferson County Public Utility District and acting spokesperson for the project.
The result is expected to be a full-service YMCA combined with an emergency preparedness facility, Randall said, adding that the project would be the first of its kind in the nation.
“This really would be a cutting edge community facility, especially for a rural community,” Randall said.
The biggest concern for the overall project is to ensure it would be accessible and affordable to people of all ages.
It’s just getting started, Randall said.
“One of the first challenges is figuring out who is taking the lead,” Randall said, “who will get all the partners on the same page and find out what they can bring to the table.”
Representatives of the city of Port Townsend, Jefferson County and Jefferson Healthcare hospital were in attendance at the workshops. Randall said organizers also hope to work with emergency management agencies, Jefferson County Public Health, local school districts and state and federal agencies.
“Those are kind of the identified stakeholders but everyone who wants to be involved can be at the table,” Randall said.
Port Townsend City Manager David Timmons said city officials want to play an active role because a project like this is too big to be handled by any one agency.
“It’s not just the YMCA or the city but the greater community that needs to be involved,” Timmons said.
County Commissioner Kate Dean said she’d also like to see the county at the table, though in what role is yet to be determined.
“It’s really unclear what the county’s role is but we’re an active player in public health and emergency management and parks and recreation so it makes sense that we’re part of the conversation,” Dean said.
Dean said currently the county pays for any kind of recreation out of the general fund so, with no dedicated funds, adequate funding is constantly a concern.
“As a parent and a resident, I hope the YMCA and other partners pull it off but I’d like the county to be at the table.”
Mike Glenn, CEO of Jefferson Healthcare, also said he was in favor of the project but didn’t know what role Jefferson Healthcare would play.
“We’re in favor of anything that encourages health and wellness in our community,” Glenn said.
According to Randall, the partners who attended Thursday’s and Friday’s workshops will continue to work with consultants provided by the EPA to create a more cohesive plan and then begin community outreach to collect opinions on the project.
While there is currently no timeline on any planning steps, Randall said he hopes there will be designs to present to the YMCA board by the end of the year.
In June, the EPA selected Port Townsend as one of 10 communities across the nation to participate in a Healthy Places for Healthy People planning assistance program in response to a grant written by the North Olympic Peninsula Resource Conservation & Development Council.