From Washington State Parks:
The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission on Thursday directed staff to move forward with negotiating an agreement to co-manage Fort Worden State Park with the Port Townsend Lifelong Learning Center Public Development Authority (PDA).
The conversation regarding options for the optimal future management of Fort Worden State Park has been under way since 2004. The Commission in 2007 adopted a vision for Fort Worden as a center for life-long learning, a financially sustainable full-service destination providing a broad array of meaningful experiences for a diverse audience of visitors. Included in the plan was the recognition that State Parks needs a non-profit partner to assist with the governance and management of Fort Worden State Park. And in 2008, the Commission adopted a series of planning documents that would make Fort Worden a Life Long Learning Center, with most of the options involving a role for the Port Townsend Lifelong Learning Center PDA.
The Commission will require as part of the co-management agreement that within four years, the PDA show a net revenue increase and/or cost avoidance assumed by the PDA. Following the unanimous action at its regular meeting in Monroe, the Commission asked that the PDA to do everything possible to minimize the loss of jobs to current state employees at Fort Worden State Park.
“This is a positive step toward preserving the unique facilities and experience at Fort Worden State Park,” said Commission Chair Joe Taller. “The state does not have the long-term capacity to care for it, and the PDA is stepping up with a commitment to raise money for improvements and to work with us to manage Fort Worden for long-term success.”
In its business plan, the PDA identified capital improvements needed which total approximately $89 million. While State Parks will continue to seek capital project funding for its needs and responsibilities at Fort Worden State Park as part of its biennial capital budget request, the PDA also will work to raise the funds and investments needed for these improvements. The business plan breaks down capital improvements into discreet projects, and the PDA will be expected to identify one high-value project and plan for early completion. By doing this, the PDA will instill confidence in the community and build support for future capital improvement projects.
As development of the co-management agreement moves forward, public meetings will be held along the way to allow for public review and comment.
Fort Worden State Park in Port Townsend is considered by many to be an icon of the state park system. With 433 acres and 11,000 feet of saltwater frontage, the park is known for its large collection of historic buildings from its origins as a 1900-era coastal defense fort. The park is the setting for a variety of festivals, workshops and community events. It is popular for overnight rental of historic homes at the site.