SEQUIM — “He would have enjoyed the architecture and the environmental aspect,” Kim Rosales said, thinking of her father as she stood inside the shell of the Dungeness River Audubon Center’s massive renovation last week.
“My mom would’ve loved the glass. She just loved to watch birds.”
More than a year after Rosales’ parents, Bryce and Gail Fish, posthumously made a major donation to the Sequim Sunrise Rotary Foundation, the civic community service club donated those funds to help expand the River Center at Railroad Bridge Park.
Members of the Sequim Sunrise Rotary Foundation on April 20 presented River Center representatives — including center director Powell Jones, capital campaign chair Annette Hanson and Annette Nesse, Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe transportation program manager — with the $250,000 donation that came from the Bryce and Gail Fish Estate.
Hanson is chair of the “Inspire Wonder” public fundraising campaign that — with community contributions, a $1.5 million state grant and $300,000 from the M. J. Murdock Charitable Trust — had reached most of the original $2.9 million fundraising goal, as River Center leaders look to complete the expansion that adds 5,900 square feet of meeting and exhibit space.
But skyrocketing building materials and other construction costs pushed the project’s costs up about $1 million, Hanson said, so contributions such as those from the Sequim Sunrise Rotary Foundation are significant.
Jones facilitated a tour of the burgeoning River Center renovation, a project that may see the center re-open in late summer or early fall.
The most significant expansion to the Dungeness River Audubon Center since it opened in 2001 continues to take shape in the early months of 2021, including a series of 3,000-pound trusses that echo the nearby historic railroad bridge.
Jones noted to foundation members last week that the trusses align with the bridge, as if they are a continuation of the historic railway.
The center’s new parking lot, located east of the current center site, will be well-lit and have cameras for security but also with downward-facing lights that won’t adversely affect migratory bird patterns.
The current parking to the northwest of the center likely will be allowed to return to floodplain, but the road people use now is expected to remain for emergency access to the bridge, Jones said.
The outside will be more inviting to passers-by, Nesse said.
A problem the center had in the past is that some visitors would assume the center was only for a private Audubon club instead of being a public facility.
Inside, Jones detailed to foundation board members the versatility of the new building, including a meeting center that can seat up to 150 people but be divided in half for more intimate settings, with a coffee bar just outside.
A few feet away is a commercial kitchen, with an exhibit hall, wildlife viewing area, gift shop and offices across the lobby.
“Every room here, except for the bathrooms, is a teaching space,” Jones said. “We are very committed to teaching.”
Some of the “old” center will be retained, he said, including artwork by the late Tim Quinn — to be reproduced in a mural on the outside of the building.
While Jones said there is no set date for opening, construction is running close to schedule.
“We’re lucky; nothing slowed us down,” Nesse said. “We were able to work through the winter.”
She noted the tribe is using a number of local contractors for various aspects of the expansion.
“We’re really excited this is a local project,” she said.
While the center will have increased expenses with maintenance and the like, she said community rentals (weddings, events, etc.) will help cover annual costs.
Jones said the center has been likened to the “heart of the Olympic Discovery Trail,” veneration he said he’s happy to encourage toward the River Center.
“We really want it to be a community hub,” Jones said.
Taking part in the tour were Sequim Sunrise Foundation Board trustees Jon Jack, Nell Clausen, Joel McKeen and Shenna Younger; club past president Russ Mellon; president-elect Ann Flack; club community service chair Rich Bemm; Kim and Stephen Rosales; Jones; Hanson; Nesse; Laura Dubois, Dungeness River Audubon Center board president and Inspire Wonder” capital campaign committee members; Lyn Muench, a “capital campaign committee member, and River Center board treasurer Wanda Schneider.
The Fishes’ donation will provide for the materials and installation of all exterior GlasPro bird-friendly glass windows and interior glass storefront doors, windows and mirrors. That includes all window framing, flashing, caulking and trim.
The center, Hanson said, will be a showcase and model for using bird-friendly glass on the North Olympic Peninsula.
“You’ll be able to see Rotary’s donation, and Bryce’s (and Gail’s) donation, throughout the building,” Hanson said last week.
Fittingly, Bryce Fish — a long-time Sequim volunteer-philanthropist following his retirement to the area — had a connection to the River Center dating back to the mid-1990s.
Known in community circles as “Bobcat Bryce,” he put his well-used Bobcat Skid-Steer Loader to work, assisting Eagle Scout prospect Tristan Sanford in constructing a loop trail through the woods to the river’s edge on the northeast side of the park.
With a background in forestry, Fish helped grow his father’s lumber business, Fish Building Supply, and the sale of that five-store operation, Rosales said, enabled the couple’s significant philanthropy later in life — including, among other major donations, an estimated $1 million to the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Olympic Peninsula.
“His circumstances put him in a position where he could help,” Rosales said of her father.
He and Gail moved to Sequim in 1990. Bryce joined the Sequim Sunrise Rotary club in August 1990 and, declining any hint of leading the group, kept minutes, organized club photos, advised group efforts and worked on dozens of Rotary projects over the next 25 years, Rotarian Russ Mellon said.
While the Fishes made major financial contributions, it was rarely done with the idea of getting accolades or a building named after them, Rosales said.
“He did not want the limelight; he could do it anonymously if he could, but you can’t stay anonymous and show up for things,” Rosales said in a previous interview.
The center will feature a donation wall just inside the east entrance, where the Fishes’ contributions can be noted along with others in helping make the new Dungeness River Audubon Center a reality.
For more information, contact Hanson at 360-670-6774 or [email protected], or check the River Center’s website at dungenessrivercenter.org/our_story/building-expansion.