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Marine Science Center loses funding

POULSBO — It seems one Liberty Bay educational institution simply can’t catch a break.

The Poulsbo Marine Science Center, an aquarium with a set of classrooms and a floating lab for area students, saw $100,000 in much-needed state funding pulled after Gov. Christine Gregoire’s Tuesday veto.

The funding was originally passed in the legislative budget session, though an additional $40,000 to fund a life-support system for an aquarium tank was not included.

This isn’t the first time the center has faced dire financial straights. It first closed in February 2005 because of funding shortfalls, but was reopened in September 2007 after a few dedicated volunteers worked to refurbish its interior.

The state invested $100,000 for the floating lab, which is now nearly finished, and gave the center $150,000 for two years of operation, meaning the aquarium can still function through June 2009.

But more is needed to develop the center’s educational curriculum, and Marine Science Center board President Bruce Harlow said now the process of looking for financial help elsewhere must begin.

“We’ll just have to roll up our sleeves and figure out if there’s alternate sources of funding,” he said. “It’s really time to sit down and talk with the board and the city and the supporters we’ve had and see what might be done.”

While he expressed disappointment at the funding loss, he assured the center will not be closing any time soon. The key now is to find finances to keep the center open past June 2009, and to find resources to develop the curriculum, which was originally slated to begin this coming fall.

As school budgets grow tighter and the need for math- and science-based learning heightens, Harlow said finding a way to make the curriculum a reality is of utmost importance, as one of the center’s main focuses is to support area school districts and introduce kids to the water and wildlife in Liberty Bay.

“I think it’s terribly important, there’s no doubt about it,” he said. “It’s desperately needed to enhance science education and appreciation of the environment.”

Twenty-third Legislative District Rep. Sherry Appleton (D-Poulsbo) also placed an emphasis on the need for supplemental science learning.

“Here was a hands-on way of doing that,” she said. “It should have been a priority because we’re trying to get kids interested in what science and math can do.”

She said a hard battle was fought to net funding for the center, and she’ll continue it again next year. Though she understands Gregoire’s attempts to decrease deficits, Appleton said the funding loss is a disheartening one.

“That’s not going to stop me from going back next year and trying once again,” she said. “I’ve got to keep trying because it’s that important a program, so we’ll just keep trying in hopes that it will resonate with people.”

Gregoire also vetoed funds for Kitsap County Health District’s Welcome Home Baby program, which totaled $155,000.

Both, Appleton said, are of great importance to the Kitsap community.

“It’s disappointing. More than disappointing, it’s devastating,” she said.

For more information on the Marine Science Center, visit www.poulsbomsc.org. The center is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday through Sunday.

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