After nine months of construction and thousands of volunteer hours, the BP Heron Center for Environmental Education is ready for its grand opening at Birch Bay State Park.
The public is invited to a ribbon cutting ceremony on Friday, July 25 at 11 a.m. and a grand opening event on Saturday, July 26 at 6 p.m. The grand opening will include a silent auction and refreshments provided by BP Cherry Point, Bay Café of Birch Bay and Friends of Birch Bay State Park (FOBBSP).
A log building facing out toward Birch Bay, the 2,400-square-foot center is both an environmental classroom and a covered picnic area. The building will serve as a regional environmental learning center for groups studying Terrell Creek, the Birch Bay marine environment and a nearby great blue heron colony. It will also be available to the community as a rentable event space.
“After 10 years, it is very exciting to have this unique environmental education building completed and open for the public to use,” said Ted Morris, Birch Bay State Park manager.
Scott Walker, a board member of FOBBSP, conceived the BP Heron Center nearly a decade ago as a way to connect the Birch Bay community with the environmental programming at the state park. Construction began in October 2013 and was completed earlier this month after a combined effort from volunteers and local businesses.
“The Friends are thrilled to see this long-awaited dream come true,” said Doralee Booth, president of FOBBSP. “The new log structure will provide an environmental education classroom, a facility for events and enable many families to enjoy the undercover picnic area. This is quite an accomplishment using partnerships to make it happen.”
Financial contributors to the project include BP Cherry Point Refinery, Alcoa Intalco Works, Jerry Larson, FOBBSP and many other local donors. Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission provided the archaeological survey and contributed staff time.
Total project costs are estimated at $236,000. BP Cherry Point Refinery contributed $115,000, and Alcoa Intalco Works contributed $25,000.
“BP is tremendously pleased to have supported this beautiful facility. Protection of the environment is one of our core values, and we are very pleased to contribute to the interpretive center in hopes that it will be a place for the Birch Bay community and park users to learn about the environmental stewardship and protection of this pristine natural environment,” said Robert Allendorfer, BP Cherry Point Refinery manager.
The brand new center is located in the lower day-use area of Birch Bay State Park, 7290 Birch Bay Drive.