PORT TOWNSEND — The Port Townsend Marine Science Center will open its doors to the public Friday to show off the completion of the first phase of the nonprofit organization’s move from Fort Worden State Park to downtown.
About 50 people attended a crisp outdoor ceremony Wednesday that highlighted the center’s 40-year anniversary and its pledge for conservation and marine stewardship.
“Today is Phase 1,” Executive Director Janine Boire said, adding it’s “beyond my wildest dreams.”
The center will open a shop at its location at the Flagship Landing Building, 1001 Water St., in Port Townsend and continue to show a photo exhibit, We Are Puget Sound: Discovering and Recovering the Salish Sea. Admission is free to the exhibit, which opened in mid-December.The shop will be open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays through Sundays with plans underway to open six days a week beginning in May, according to a press release.
Last August, the center purchased the Flagship Landing building for $2.2 million. The 19th century shopping mall, at 14,640 square feet, is in the middle of downtown, flanked by Tyler Street Plaza on the waterfront.
Phase 1 serves as an introduction to the center’s programs, including community citizen science, lifelong education programs and exhibits, and the store will feature marine-friendly products, according to the press release.
The nonprofit has major renovation plans in the next three to five years, board president Ellen Hargis said, a timeline that will allow for the planning, design and permitting, plus a capital campaign that could reach $10 million.
“We want to make sure we are a model for coastal resiliency and seismic preparedness,” Hargis said, adding that the purchase of the building has reduced the center’s carbon footprint.
Measures to mitigate the effects of sea level rise and weather extremes also are being planned, she said.
Port Townsend City Manager John Mauro said the project could be an example of how to fight climate change, calling it “possible ground zero for a demonstration of that progress.”
Jefferson County Commissioner Kate Dean also spoke about environmental awareness.
“How do we live and work in this place without causing irreparable harm to it?” she asked.
The Flagship Landing eventually will house the center’s aquarium, exhibits, store, labs and offices. But it plans to keep its aquarium on the Fort Worden pier as long as possible to ensure a smooth transition.
The state park has been home to the center since 1982, when cofounders Libby Palmer and Judy D’Amore gathered support to build an aquarium in the wooden building on the pier on Battery Way.
The state Parks and Recreation Commission is in the process of renovating the area, including the likely removal of the pier and replacement of the boat launch. That prompted the marine science center to explore its future options.
The long-term plan is to maintain a presence at the fort by converting the current museum building into an environmental learning center and a field station, Boire said last summer.
On Wednesday, she praised donors for contributing so early in the process. In just 10 days last year, the center raised more than $500,000 in pledges.
“That is a testament to the power of this community and what we can do together,” she said.
Managing Editor Brian McLean can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.