SEQUIM — State Rep. Steve Tharinger toured the construction of the Dungeness River Audubon Center’s building expansion with members of the Capital Campaign Team and program manager Annette Nesse earlier this month.
Tharinger, D-Port Townsend, and fellow Democrats representing Legislative District 24 — Rep. Mike Chapman, D-Port Angeles, and Sen. Kevin Van De Wege, D-Sequim — had worked to secure a state grant for $1.5 million as part of the center’s $5.5 million expansion and remodel.
Chapman and Van De Wege were unable to attend the June 1 tour because of schedule conflicts, they said.
A few days later, the river center project received another boost toward its expansion.
A Kansas-based foundation, the Sunderland Foundation, provided a grant of $300,000 to help complete construction elements of the center’s expansion and remodel.
Started by Lester T. Sunderland, president of the Ash Grove Cement Company in 1945, the foundation’s gift will fittingly be used in part for concrete work at the center.
That work includes concrete sidewalks connecting the new parking area to all building entrances, and pathways to the Dungeness River, park amenities, the historic Railroad Bridge and the Olympic Discovery Trail, river center representatives said.
“We are grateful for the Sunderland Foundation’s interest in promoting youth education and community buildings,” said Powell Jones, director of the Dungeness River Audubon Center.
“This award came right when we needed to fill some of the gaps in our construction budget for the new center.”
Other concrete construction elements include a concrete patio and ADA access ramp for the new eastern main entrance, and a concrete slab for an atrium that will provide a covered outdoor area for teaching and for community exhibits and festivals.
The grant also will support construction of a wildlife viewing area with seating to offer comfortable indoor viewing of bird feeders, a water feature, a native plant garden, the riparian forest and a rain garden.
Another large grant was from the M. J. Murdock Charitable Trust, which contributed $300,000.
The river center expansion, which is expected to be completed this fall, will add 4,900-plus square feet to the existing 1,500 square-foot building.
It also will add more than 60 paved parking spaces in a lighted parking area with easy access to the center and the Olympic Discovery Trail.
The new building features a large meeting room, smaller classroom, commercial catering kitchen, expanded office space and a large atrium with bird-friendly glass which will bring plenty of light into the building’s entrance.
Fundraising continues for the remodel of the existing building exclusively for exhibit space and a wildlife viewing room. The center’s expansion will also include a concession/coffee stand, a “first” on the Olympic Discovery Trail.
The Jamestown S’Klallam Tribal Council purchased 4.5 acres of land east of the center in 2016.
Because initial construction bids were more than $1 million over the architect’s estimate, the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe stepped in as general contractor and was able to achieve substantial savings for the center nonprofit organization.
Construction supervisor Kirk Nelson has used local subcontractors on this project, center representatives noted.
For more information, contact Annette Hanson at 360-670-6774 or [email protected], or check the river center’s website at dungenessrivercenter. org/our_story/building- expansion.