BP Heron Center nears completion

Published on Wed, Apr 23, 2014 by Ian Ferguson

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Sunny weather brought a flurry of activity at the BP Heron Center for Environmental Education, where contractors and volunteers are busy preparing the space for its inaugural season.

With faux-log-cabin siding that was chinked last week, the 40-foot by 60-foot building is half interior space and half covered picnic space that faces west on Birch Bay.

Electrical and plumbing in the new building is nearly complete, and crews finished insulating and dry-walling the interior last 
week. The next steps include painting, trimming, staining and finishing the concrete floors. Birch Bay State Park manager Ted Morris said he is hoping for a grand opening in mid-June.

“We’re getting really close, but we still need volunteers and donations to get the final touches,” Morris said.

Most notably, Morris said he is looking for volunteers with experience finishing concrete. Cash donations would be used to purchase fixtures for the classroom: a science sink for the more complex presentations, a regular lab sink, a toilet and audio/visual equipment.

Morris and the Friends of Birch Bay State Park held a groundbreaking ceremony for the interpretive center last April, but construction didn’t begin until September. Much of the funding for the project came from the BP Cherry Point Refinery and Alcoa Intalco Works.

BP donated $115,000 to the project and Alcoa Intalco Works donated $25,000.

Morris estimated the project cost at $170,000 so far, despite an original projected cost of $236,000. Volunteers have been instrumental in making the dream of an environmental center in Birch Bay State Park a reality, Morris said.

“Volunteers on this project have been tremendous. Gene Quinn and Neil Cronk probably have more than 500 hours invested, and Mills Electric has done an outstanding job. They had about a dozen electricians over here at one time, and they’ve put in 160 hours of volunteer time,” Morris said.

The interior space will be used for interpretive programs, and the building will be available for rental on days when interpretive programs are not scheduled.

The Friends of Birch Bay State Park, the organization that manages the interpretive programming at the park, is working to draft operating procedures for the interpretive center. They are also hammering out the summer’s schedule of events. 

On most Friday and Saturday nights over the summer months the park hosts presentations from knowledgeable experts on everything from archaeology and bears to birds and flowers. Last summer’s popular “Hunters of the Sky” program featured volunteer trainers from the Sardis Raptor Center, who showed off six live birds of prey and taught participants about identification, anatomy of flight, the raptor’s role in the environment and more.

Morris said the space “will definitely be focused on interpretation, but there will be music and other neat programs too.”

Summer programming at the park begins mid-May. Until the BP Heron Center is opened, interpretive programs will meet at the wildlife theatre in the upper day use area of Birch Bay State Park. As always, programs will be free and open to the public.