Completing a process that took almost a decade, the 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.
Under the agreement, the authority will manage the campus portion of the park, while State Parks continues to manage the campground, trails, beach and other natural areas. State Parks remains the underlying land owner, and all areas will continue to be managed for public purposes, said a department news release.
The authority will take over management of the campus in May 2014. During the next few months, it will provide the commission more detailed plans for specific marketing, fundraising, operating and improvement efforts. In the agreement, the authority is responsible for most costs associated with campus operations.
Long-range planning for the future of the park began in 2004, and in 2007 the commission adopted the lifelong learning center concept as a development principle for Fort Worden.
In 2011, the City of Port Townsend adopted a charter to establish the Fort Worden PDA, and the commission directed State Parks staff to work with the authority to create a co-management agreement.
According to the lease, the authority will manage approximately 90 of the 434 acres at the park. The campus to be managed by the authority has 71 buildings, including classrooms, a commons building, dormitories and historic houses for overnight rental, the release said.
While the authority will provide daily custodial work, State Parks will provide preventive and skilled maintenance for the first four years of the agreement.
The state agency currently operates the park at an annual deficit of more than $1 million. The terms of the agreement call for the authority to take on responsibility for all maintenance and costs by the fifth year of the agreement.
The authority also has assessed major maintenance and rehabilitation needs for campus buildings and has set the groundwork for fund-raising to make improvements.