Stakeholders narrow in on Fort Worden lease

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A 56-page draft released on Monday, July 29 details a lease agreement between Washington State Parks and the Fort Worden Lifelong Learning Center Public Development Authority (FWPDA) for the management of a 90-acre portion of Fort Worden State Park.

“The proposed agreement has consensus at the staff level between the two parties on 99 percent of the policy issues that the public has expressed concern about over the public review and comment process,” said Larry Fairleigh, assistant director of Washington State Parks.

On Aug. 8, the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission is scheduled to review the draft 50-year lease and could take action. The meeting is at 1 p.m. at City Hall, 904 Sixth St., in Anacortes.

If signed, the lease sets a concession date of May 2014, when State Parks would transfer management of the Fort Worden campus to the FWPDA.

Stakeholders are still targeting the final outliers of an agreement. Both parties anticipate additional revisions following the public forum that took place on Tuesday, July 30, at the Commons at Fort Worden.

“This meeting [July 30] was difficult because we wanted to give the public enough heads-up to let them know what was going to happen, but these negotiations are complex and the timing was tight to provide a draft agreement in time for the public to review,” said Virginia Painter, public affairs director for Washington State Parks.

Another update could be available as early as Friday, Aug. 2, according to Painter. State Parks is continuing to accept public comment until 5 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 5. To comment, email Sreytouch Ryser at sreytouch.ryser@parks.wa.gov.

LEASE HIGHLIGHTS

If approved by the state parks commission, the 50-year master lease would represent the true governing document between State Parks and the FWPDA. The lease does not include the transfer of any property to the FWPDA; rather, it sets the roles and responsibilities of each agency to co-manage the 434-acre park.

The recent draft outlines a five-year transition period, in which State Parks would systematically relinquish certain responsibilities to the FWPDA.

TENANTS, EMPLOYEES

Upon concession, the FWPDA would assume all current leases of tenant organizations (Centrum, Goddard and Peninsula colleges, Madrona MindBody Institute, the Port Townsend School of Woodworking, etc.). Authority over hospitality services would also transfer to the FWPDA, allowing the organization to set and collect fees.

State Parks would retain management of the campgrounds, while the FWPDA would oversee the central reservation office. A service fee of $8.50 per reservation would be collected by the FWPDA with the remainder going to State Parks.

“State Parks will not subsidize the FWPDA. Our business model is logical, strong and doable,” said Dave Robison, FWPDA executive director. “The $250,000 subsidy originally proposed has been taken off of the table.”

Other concerns addressed through the process include the division of maintenance and capital improvements, impacts to State Park employees and implementation of the Discover Pass.

The transition period would keep many State Parks staff in their positions until year five.

MAINTENANCE, IMPROVEMENTS

In the latest draft, State Parks agrees to retain responsibility for the majority of park maintenance, including park grounds and facility exteriors, campgrounds and roads. The FWPDA would be responsible for interior custodial and janitorial duties. In year five, the FWPDA would take responsibility for campus maintenance.

A seven-year capital improvements plan, listing building improvements and estimated costs in order of priority, has already been drafted by the FWPDA and awaits further negotiations with State Parks and approval by the Legislature as to how each project would be funded.

DISCOVER PASS

Under the terms of the 50-year lease, parking in the campus area would not require a Discover Pass; however, the FWPDA commits to selling at least $250,000 worth of passes each year to support State Parks, as well as collecting a vendor fee.

If the FWPDA were to fail to reach the annual monetary goal, the organization would be required to make up the difference.

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