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Marine Science Center on course to open Sept. 30

POULSBO — The Poulsbo Marine Science Foundation has set the date for the grand re-opening of Little Norway’s downtown Marine Science Center, and its members are diligently working to meet the deadline.

Closed since February 2005 due to financial straits, and now awaiting finishing touches, the marine education center is set to debut to the public Sept. 30.

“We’re sort of in the frantic final stages,” said PMSF President Bruce Harlow. “Like any new operation, it’s a real challenge.”

Harlow said the center’s current funding, which consists of $150,000 over the next two years and $100,000 for the purchase and construction of a floating lab, is “barely enough for food and electric,” meaning the foundation plans to rely heavily on volunteers to keep things up and running.

“Our challenge is to make do with volunteers,” he said. “I won’t pat myself on the back until we get it open and have a proven track record.”

Harlow said despite funding challenges, he is proud of the work foundation vice president Bill Austin has done, and knows the institution can become a cheerful and educational place for students to work in the future. For now, the center will only offer pilot programs, but a regular class schedule for adults and children alike is the an eventual goal at the PMSC.

“We’re very enthusiastic about having an opportunity for students,” he said. “Bill Austin continues to be just totally, totally devoted to it.”

Austin said aside from the center’s large look-down tank, which requires a $40,000 life support system the foundation presently cannot afford afford, the center will be ready to go by the end of the month.

“I feel confident that we shall have critters in there by the grand opening,” he said. “It’s really neat how it all came together... there’s so many people that helped out.”

Twenty-third District Rep. Sherry Appleton said she plans to seek an additional $100,000 for the center from the supplemental budget the coming Legislative term.

“Hopefully that will help,” she said.

Appleton also said she looks forward to seeing the finished product.

“Bill Austin has always been a visionary,” she said. “I’m really thrilled with what they’ve been doing. It’s a world-class facility, so we have to keep it going.”

Appleton said with support from the community and the center’s visitors, the goal of keeping the PMSC open and free to the public is an attainable one.

“I think that we have finally got the formula to keep it running,” she said.

Downtown business owners are also looking forward to the center’s grand opening soiree, and are happy it will once again become part of Poulsbo’s downtown.

“I think it’s fabulous,” said Liberty Bay Books owner Suzanne Droppert, who plans to organize a community event in support of the center in October. “I’m glad it’s reopening, but we all still need to help.”

Eileen France of Magnolia Cafe said the PMSC is an important part of downtown, especially because it is free to anyone who chooses to enter.

“I’m glad to see it’s up and going,” she said.

Heirloom Quilts & Fabrics co-owner Carol Swanson said she sees the center as an opportunity for families, and business partner Sylvia Schulte said she believes marine life is an important part of living in the area.

“It’s a positive thing for the community at large,” she said.

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