State Parks commission to consider Fort Worden PDA lease amendment

Commission plans meetings, tours this week

PORT TOWNSEND — The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission will consider on Thursday continuing to provide the Fort Worden Public Development Authority temporary relief from some lease obligations.

The relief would have a deadline of May 1, 2023, for the PDA to complete a new organization and business plan, according to an agenda memo prepared by State Parks staff.

The commission, which meets bi-monthly, will conduct its January meeting at Fort Worden State Park.

The business meeting will be from 8:30 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. Thursday in the Commons conference space at 200 Battery Way at Fort Worden. Commissioners also will conduct a work session with staff from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday in the same place.

The first item on Thursday’s agenda is consideration of final action on an amendment of the 50-year lease agreement with the Fort Worden Public Development Authority that was signed in November 2013.

The amendment, which was executed by the director on Sept. 8, 2021, postponed revenue sharing and other obligations.

Those who attend meetings in person will be required to comply with COVID-19 state law. To join the meeting online, register at www.tinyurl.com/PDN-State-Parks. The event password is [email protected] To attend by telephone, call 206-207-1700 and enter access code 2466 589 4530.

The meeting also will stream on TVW at https://tvw.org/video/washington-state-parks-and-recreation-commission -2022011231/?eventID=2022011231.

The full agendas and meeting links are posted at www.parks.wa.gov/154/Commission-meetings-agendas.

Commissioners also plan tours of parks in the area. At 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, the commission will tour Fort Worden State Park with partners from the Fort Worden Public Development Authority. At 9 a.m. Friday, they will tour Mystery Bay and Fort Flagler state parks.

The public is welcome to attend the tours but must provide their own transportation.

The original lease agreement in 2013 set up the structure for the PDA’s management of the campus portions of the 434-acre park — about one-fourth of the park and including most of the buildings — while State Parks continues to manage the camping, beach and recreation areas.

Since then, financial problems and effects of COVID-19 have affected the PDA’s management.

State Parks staff has recommended that — given the ongoing depression of tourism, and therefore revenues, during the COVID-19 pandemic — the commission approve a one-time waiver of the requirement to provide camping reservation services, camping front desk and check-in services and $250,000 in Discover Pass sales.

Staff also recommended approval of a one-time award of no more than $150,000 to offset the cost of grounds maintenance, which essentially stopped for the past 18 months but for intermittent efforts by parks staff and PDA volunteers.

“Maintenance remains the most extraordinary challenge for the PDA,” State Parks staff said in the agenda memo.

“With low use, many buildings are seeing a rapid decline in condition and operational efficiency,” the memo said, citing major building system failures including boilers, HVAC, alarm systems and restaurant equipment.

The PDA is contemplating a cost-recovery model to pay for maintenance of campus facilities, grounds and other common infrastructure, state staff said.

“This approach would assess a fee to Fort tenants based on square footage or some other objective measure, that in sum offsets the total cost to conduct day-to-day maintenance of the campus,” the agenda memo said.

Also recommended is that the commission establish a temporary requirement that the PDA seek approval by the director for any sublease of structures within the PDA lease area with a term extending past May 1, 2023.

The PDA has made changes to stabilize its finances, State Parks noted.

It has established a new administrative team, had its finances reconciled back to 2015 and renegotiated its debt, with Jefferson County providing a $378,000 cash guarantee for repayment of the new loans.

In addition, the completion of Makers Square through renovations to Buildings 305, 308 and 324 allowed the PDA to secure $2,268,200 in proceeds from federal historic preservation tax credits to help repay construction loans and contractors, State Parks staff said.

Among PDA restructuring is use of a nonprofit hospitality concessionaire, rather than PDA staff, to manage conferencing, overnight accommodations, food and beverage services.

A finance oversight committee with representatives from the City of Port Townsend, State Parks and the PDA has been established to provide more oversight.

Staff said in that agenda memo that it is important to determine how best to manage the relationship between the PDA and Fort Worden lifelong learning campus’ resident partners.

“With the recent changes to the PDA’s organizational structure, it now operates more in the capacity of a property manager and a ‘trust’ to ensure adherence to the goals of the 2008 Fort Worden Long-Range Plan, the memo said.

“The (Fort Worden) Foundation is refocusing on its new philanthropic role while Fort Worden Hospitality is developing in its new role and supporting business model.”

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Executive Editor Leah Leach can be reached at 360-417-3530 or at [email protected].

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