The community’s well-used building at Railroad Bridge Park isn’t the only thing getting a make-over in 2021.
On Sept. 10, board members unanimously agreed to change the name of the Dungeness River Audubon Center to the Dungeness River Nature Center, the organization announced earlier this month.
The new name reflects the River Center’s educational mission to teach children and adults about the natural environment of the Dungeness River watershed, the organization said in a press release in early September.
“We were prompted to change the name, so people understand that the work we do is to celebrate all natural and cultural resources of the Dungeness River watershed,” says Powell Jones, the River Center ‘s director and park manager.
“Although we want to continue to be a go-to place for birds, we want visitors to come learn about the Dungeness River’s unique ecosystems and inhabitants that include salmon, mammals, insects, and plants,” Jones says.
“Additionally, we want to be a place where people come to learn about the special relationship that the Jamestown Tribe has had with this watershed for time immemorial.”
River Center partners, including the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, Olympic Peninsula Audubon Society, and the state and national Audubon societies, support the name change, River Center representatives said.
The River Center Board also decided to write a new mission statement — “To inspire understanding, respect, and stewardship of our natural and cultural resources” — along with adopting a new logo that bears the new name.
Said Jones, “Because the River Center covers such a wide range of subjects that include everything from wildflowers, trees, insects, coyotes, hummingbirds, and everything in between; we felt that it was also important for our mission statement to be reworked to include and describe best what we do.”
The Olympic Peninsula Audubon Society will continue to sponsor and present bird-centric programs, field trips, BirdFest, and classes, noted Olympic Peninsula Audubon Society president Ken Wiersma.
“Audubon” has been part of the River Center’s name and logo since 1997.
“While we’ll miss the Audubon name on the Center, the new name represents a more inclusive commitment from each of the partners to the understanding and stewardship of our natural environment,” he said. “The National Audubon Society and their State office will continue to work in partnership with the Center to achieve our shared goals.
“We have been active partners in the designs and capabilities built into the expanded Center. As an entirely volunteer organization and the smallest of the local partners, we’re energized and ready to get into the Center and do our part.
“We’re delighted to see the Pileated Woodpecker in Salish art, in the new logo.”
Expansion, remodel set
Set for a re-opening sometime later this fall, the River Center expansion and remodel is five times larger than the original building at Railroad Bridge Park and will look to integrate local natural history and the S’Klallam culture of the Olympic Peninsula.
The expanded and remodeled facility includes a 150-person meeting room, small conference/classroom, exhibit room, new office, gift shop, commercial catering kitchen, concession stand, wildlife viewing room, atrium, and a large patio for outdoor activities.
The River Center sits in the 75-acre Railroad Bridge Park, owned by the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, and active partner in the center since 1994. The tribe provides a range of maintenance, repair and park and center facilities upgrades; including caring for the historic railroad bridge that crosses the Dungeness River.
“Our Tribe is very excited about this expansion of the Dungeness River Center,” said W. Ron Allen, Jamestown S’Klallam Tribal Chair and CEO. “The new name and logo reflect a turning of the page in this Tribal/community program’s purpose — one that will enlighten many generations about the importance of the river and habitat for fish and wildlife to our community.
“The Center will truly become a destination site honoring the beauty of the Olympic Peninsula.”
The first iteration of the River Center, the Sequim Natural History Museum, was founded by volunteers in 1984 in a single classroom in the old high school building,” said Annette Hanson, board president and co-founder.
“In 1994, our first board members envisioned a place where we could teach about the natural history of our area and the importance of respecting and preserving our wildlife and environment,” Hanson said. “We wanted to showcase the complexity of the Dungeness River. We imagined and planned for a center where all people could visit, learn, and feel welcome in the beautiful and natural setting of Railroad Bridge Park.
“Our vision was big, but we started small in 2001 with the opening of the first River Center building. Fast forward—now the timing is right—our vision is becoming a reality! We are so thankful for our partners, our community, and donors who are helping our shared vision come true. We’re almost there.”
Follow the River Center expansion with updates and more online at dungenessrivercenter.org/construction-updates.
First River Center event canceled
The new River Center’s first event to be held Oct. 1, an after-dark walk through an illuminated Railroad Bridge Park, has been canceled due to safety concerns.
The decision to cancel was made on Sept. 10 because of an unexpected surge of delta variant of COVID-19 infections in Clallam and Jefferson counties, event organizers said.
This event was being offered to the public free of charge and was going to give the public a sneak peek at the new facility.
The event included illuminated paper mache animal figures to be displayed in the dark throughout Railroad Bridge Park and the bridge to be illuminated with white fairy light. A 45-minute puppet show, presented by String & Shadow Puppet Theater, was scheduled for a 7 p.m. performance. Organizer Janine Miller, a Sequim resident, had planned and coordinated the event with the River Center and numerous artists from around the Salish Sea area over the past three months.
“We expected that this event would draw hundreds of people, old and young, through the main gate, on the bridge, and by way of the Olympic Discovery Trail,” said Powell Jones, River Center director and park manager. “But we must err on the side of safety for the public and for our volunteers, who would have had to monitor the event in the dark.”