BIRCH BAY - Many springs, park ranger Ted Morris would see Blaine fifth-graders and the Huxley College of the Environment students teaching them about the natural world walking around in a downpour.
They, and others learning about the environment, soon will have a shelter from the rain with the construction of the 2,400-square-foot BP Heron Center for Environmental Education at Birch Bay State Park.
A groundbreaking ceremony for the log building - a project in the works for about eight years - is set for Saturday, April 20. The front half of the building will be an open picnic shelter with a roof, and the back part will be enclosed.
Construction is expected to start in late September and be completed by spring or summer 2014. It will be at the park's day-use area between Terrell Creek and Birch Bay Drive.
"This should be a great asset to the community, a great asset to the park," said Morris, an area manager whose responsibilities include Birch Bay State Park.
The project is collaboration with Friends of Birch Bay State Park, is being paid for with private donations from the community, and is made possible with support from volunteers.
"To have the Friends group actually operate it for us and have a partnership like this with the companies that are helping build it, it's pretty cool," Morris said. "It's nice to see what was a dream at one time turn into reality."
The project has an estimated budget of $236,000, including permits, but the amount could be lower because of volunteer labor and help, Morris said.
The new space will be used for year-round interpretive programs at the park, which boasts Terrell Creek salmon runs, the Birch Bay intertidal zone, and wintering birds.
The center also will offer much-needed community meeting space.
"Groups are always looking for places to meet, especially out here," said Kathy Berg, Heron Center coordinator and a Friends board member. "A place to meet as community is probably the most important thing for the community."
The space also will be available for rentals.
Money for the project has come from private donations, including $5,000 from the late Gerry Larson, a former Birch Bay resident and board member of the Friends.
The largest donors were BP Cherry Point Refinery and Alcoa Intalco Works, which donated $105,000 and $25,000 respectively.
Mills Electric in Bellingham has offered to help with the electrical work, and True Log Homes near Deming will help with construction.
Reach Kie Relyea at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-715-2234.
IF YOU GO
What: Groundbreaking ceremony for the BP Heron Center for Environmental Education. The event will include live music and is part of Friends of Birch Bay State Park's celebration of Earth Day and the Washington State Parks Centennial.
When: 10 a.m. Saturday, April 20.
Where: Lower day-use area at Birch Bay State Park, off of Birch Bay Drive. Look for a big tent near the beach.
Details: Go to the Friends of Birch Bay State Park website at fobbsp.org. The organization also has a Facebook page.
Help wanted: Donations and volunteer labor still are being sought for the project. Contact the Friends for information on how to help.
Reach KIE RELYEA at email@example.com or call 715-2234.