The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission has approved a 50-year lease and agreement to co-manage Fort Worden State Park with the Fort Worden Lifelong Learning Center Public Development Authority (PDA).
The agreement provides for the PDA to manage the campus portion of the park, while State Parks continues to manage the campground, trails, beach and other natural areas of the park. State Parks remains the underlying land owner, and all areas will continue to be managed for public purposes.
In 2011, the City of Port Townsend adopted a charter to establish the Fort Worden PDA, and the Commission directed staff to work with them toward a co-management agreement. Long-range planning for the future of Fort Worden State Park began in 2004, and in 2007, the Commission adopted the lifelong learning center concept as a development principle for Fort Worden. A formal long-range plan adopted in 2008 recognized the need for a partner to attract private investment to maintain the historic site and to help realize the vision of Fort Worden as a lifelong learning center.
According to the lease, the PDA will manage approximately 90 of the 434 acres at the park. The campus to be managed by PDA has 71 buildings, including classrooms, a commons building, dormitories and historic houses for overnight rental.
Fort Worden State Park in Port Townsend is a popular destination, featuring a historic military fort with spectacular views, trails, commander and officer’s houses, parade green, gun emplacements and bunkers to explore. Fort Worden was constructed between 1898 and 1910, along with Fort Flagler and Fort Casey, to protect Puget Sound from enemy attack. The park was operated as a military site through World War II. Since 1972, it has been operated as a state park. Through partnerships, the park has offered festivals, workshops, exhibits, museums and events, along with traditional outdoor recreation opportunities. All of these activities will continue to be available.
According to the lease, the PDA will take over management of the campus in May 2014. During the next few months, the PDA will provide to the Commission more detailed plans for specific marketing, fundraising, operating and improvement efforts. In the agreement, the PDA is responsible for most costs associated with campus operations.
While the PDA will provide daily custodial work, State Parks will provide preventive and skilled maintenance during the first four years of the agreement. State Parks currently operates Fort Worden at an annual deficit of more than $1 million. The terms of the agreement call for the PDA to take on responsibility for all maintenance and costs, resulting in a significant deficit reduction to Parks in Year 5 of the agreement.
The PDA also has assessed major maintenance and rehabilitation needs for campus buildings and has set the groundwork for fund-raising to make improvements. Any PDA-proposed building improvements must be in alignment with historic preservation guidelines.
““The Commission has long recognized the necessity for us to have a strong partner and private sector support to care for Fort Worden,” said Commissioner Chair Rodger Schmitt. “This agreement represents years of hard work and public engagement to get to a place where we can realize the potential of this truly unique park. We’re going to do all we can to make co-management successful, for the benefit of the public now and as a legacy for the future.”
Press Release submitted by WASHINGTON STATE PARKS AND RECREATION COMMISSION