Dungeness River Audubon Center gets $300K grant for expansion

The Dungeness River Audubon Center is one big step closer to its approximate $3 million makeover.

Representatives with the center’s capital campaign to expand the facility at Railroad Bridge Park announced last week the securing of a $300,000 grant from the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, a Vancouver-based organization that awards grants in a five-state region throughout the Pacific Northwest and Alaska.

Annette Hanson, chair of the Inspire Wonder Capital Campaign, said, “We are thrilled with the Murdock grant and the trust they have placed in our project and organization. We hope this top-off grant will inspire many more center and park enthusiasts to support this project so we can reach our goal and begin building.”

Hanson said she and others on the campaign worked closely with Jill (Tatum) Lemke, program director with M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, since late spring of last year on the grant, a process that included several proposal revisions plus interviews and a site visit.

“Their one stipulation that this is a cap-off grant,” Hanson said — that the $300,000 would be awarded as the final piece of what campaign supporters expect will be a $3 million project.

The grant pushed the center’s fundraising efforts to 56 percent of the campaign’s goal, with about $1.3 million left to be raised.

The project includes the building of a new wing with a large multi-purpose room for expanded educational programs and more community meetings and events, a commercial kitchen, small classroom and a concession stand, plus remodeling of the current building and building a new access road and parking lot.

The Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, owner of the park and center’s building, is contributing more than $714,000 toward the new access road and parking lot. Hanson said that once permitting is secured, the tribe will start a rough first phase of the parking lot part of the project by the end of spring or early this summer.

Lemke, who is responsible for the trust’s Partners in Science program and reviews grants in regular grants program, said the Audubon Center’s proposal hit on a number of key aspects trust directors look for in potential grant recipients.

“The organizations we fund are not exactly competing against each other, (so) each is based on its own merit … (such as) good finances, good community connection and impact,” Lemke said.

She said the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust generally looks to fund projects in such fields as scientific research, education, art, human services and health care.

“They did meet the trust’s criteria for a grant — that’s a big deal,” Lemke said. “It’s a great organization.”

Hanson noted that this isn’t the first time the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust has provided a local boost: A grant from the trust funded the Dungeness River Audubon Center’s first education coordinator, Powell Jones, who is now the center’s director.

“We did have a history which helped, I’m sure,” Hanson said. “And they knew our organization was sound. We had to assure them that we have a plan.

“They were wonderful to work with.”

Campaign organizers are looking to finish up the final phase of design for the expansion to firm up the project’s final budget figure.

Along with seeking other grant sources and the possibility of using local businesses for resources to help defray costs, Hanson said the campaign’s next big fundraiser is a golf tournament at The Cedars at Dungeness on Saturday, June 15.

Audubon Center representatives also will be at spring-and summertime festivals to help spread the word about the capital campaign, Hanson said.

Find more project information and a campaign video at www.dungenessrivercenter.org.

About the center

Situated on a 71-acre nature park and adjacent to an iconic railroad bridge that is part of the Olympic Discovery Trail near the Dungeness River, the Audubon Center is a community-created and supported natural history center with educational programs, community events and a unique collection of wildlife specimens.

The center is celebrating its 25th anniversary of incorporation with “a mission to inspire understanding, enjoyment and stewardship of the Olympic Peninsula’s unique natural and cultural resources, with emphasis on birds, rivers, fish and people.”

The center is operated in partnership among the Dungeness River Audubon Center, Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe and Olympic Peninsula Audubon Society. It offers programs such as hands-on science programs, events and summer day camps for preschool through high school age youth, and nature-themed trips, educational talks, classes and activities for adults.

About the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust

Created by the will of the late Melvin J. (Jack) Murdock, co-founder of Tektronix, Inc., the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust provides grants to organizations in five states of the Pacific Northwest: Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington.

Upon his death in 1971, Murdock’s will directed three trustees to establish a charitable trust “to nurture and enrich the educational, cultural, social and spiritual lives of individuals, families and community.”

Since its inception in 1975, the trust has awarded more than 6,500 grants.

Beginning with assets of $91 million, the trust’s endowment has grown to approximately $1.2 billion — with nearly $975 million given out in grant awards and programs to date.

For more about the trust, see www.murdocktrust.org.

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