When the ribbon was cut for the grand opening of the BP Heron Center for Environmental Education at Birch Bay State Park on July 25, it was a moment of triumph for a group of dedicated parks supporters and volunteers who persevered in their dream to build an interpretive center befitting the majesty and natural beauty of Birch Bay State Park.
The new BP Heron Center for Environmental Education will be the stage for high-quality interpretive programming at the park, giving local school children a place to gather and warm up after blustery beach walks, and public a new facility in which to learn from park rangers and local experts about the abundant wildlife in the Birch Bay ecosystem.
The grand opening was the first opportunity for the public to enter the new True Log Homes-designed structure. When not in use by organized school groups and interpretive programming, the facilities are available by rental to the public for picnics, reunions and other events. Proceeds will be used to maintain the facility and to fund enhancements to future programming.
The Friends of Birch Bay State Park and BP have long partnered to provide free interpretive and cultural programs during the park's busy season from May to September. This new facility will increase options for programming, including opening up a classroom setting right on the beach alongside Terrell Creek Marsh, one of the few remaining saltwater/freshwater estuaries in north Puget Sound, and allowing our programs to continue through the winter months.
The concept was conceived 10 years ago, when former BP employee and Port Commissioner Scott Walker and Park Manager Ted Morris thought Birch Bay State Park should extend its high-quality environmental programming to the surrounding community, and needed a building suited for that purpose. Together with a dedicated group of park supporters including Kathy Berg, Doralee Booth and many others, they hatched a plan to create a new facility that would inspire visitors and residents with an appreciation for the natural and cultural heritage of Birch Bay.
Construction began in October of 2013 and was completed this July.
The project would not have been possible without the generosity of many. Financial contributors to the project include BP at $115,000; Alcoa Intalco Works at $25,000; and Jerry Larson, who donated $5,000. Mills Electric donated more than 175 hours of electrical contractor time and thousands of dollars of donated electrical equipment. The Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association donated plantings and hosted a work party with more than 100 volunteers. Washington State Parks provided the archaeological survey and contributed staff time toward the project. BAI Environmental provided hydroseeding of the surrounding landscape, and park neighbors Gene Quinn and Neil Cronk each donated about 500 hours of construction labor to see the project through to completion.
So far this summer, more than 1,000 people have attended programs at the park. With more than 750,000 park visitors each year, the BP Heron Center is certain to enhance the experience of park-goers and attract new users. Thanks to the dedication and generosity of the project's champions, the BP Center for Environmental Education will be there to enjoy for years to come.
BP Heron Center for Environmental Education at Birch Bay State Park, 5105 Helweg Road, Blaine, offers these programs:
Aug. 8, 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. Overview of photovoltaic technology and how it works in the Northwest.
Save Our Bees
Aug. 9, 7 p.m. to 8 p.m., wildlife theater. Explore the importance of Mason bees.
Aug. 22, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Learn first aid from a local fire officer.
Aug. 15, 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. An evening of Celtic music and dancers.
Aug. 16, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Learn how to save a life from a local fire officer in this basic CPR class.
Creating a Backyard Habitat
Aug. 22, 7 p.m. to 8 p.m., wildlife theater. Learn ways to improve your yard to enhance the health of your plants and their partner insects.
Aug. 23, 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.s starts at wildlife theater. Family fun for all ages.
Aug. 29, 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. History of the Northwest from an archaeological perspective.
Aug. 30, 7 p.m. to 8 p.m., wildlife theater. Join Roger "The Eagle Guy" Rickett for a discussion on the life of local eagles.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Pam Brady is BP's director of Northwest government and public affairs. Ted Morris is manager at Birch Bay State Park.