Marine Science Center on course

POULSBO — The Poulsbo Marine Science Center has struggled to gain enough financial momentum for a reopening since its closure in February 2005. With funding from the state now reaching just $150,000 over the next two years — half of its expected cost — its need for monetary support has never been greater.

Though Phase I is nearly done, classrooms are finished and the final major tank, a look-down tank with a 30 degree angled front for optimal viewing of bottom fish such as flounders and mud sharks, is nearing completion, the center’s renovation still has a ways to go.

“We need money desperately to finish it,” said Bill Austin, Vice President of the Poulsbo Marine Science Foundation. “Money is a big struggle. We’ve got barely enough to pay the heat bill, but I think we’ll make it.”

PMSF President Bruce Harlow said he’s hopeful for a fall debut, but doesn’t want to rush the process.

“We’re trying to think of all that’s needed for a September opening,” he said. “We want to check all the boxes… things like the quality of the water. We don’t want to jeopardize the animals.”

Harlow said one of the major reasons to secure long-term funding is to ensure the center can be a free attraction.

“Our hope and real desire is that it will be an amenity to the region without charge,” he said. “We’re working hard on numerous fronts. I hope we’re doing a job people can be proud of.”

The center recently obtained $100,000 from the state to convert a boathouse into a floating laboratory. This “floating lab” would feature a cut-out in its floor so students could locate and study water specimens in a hands-on setting.

“The theory is if children do these things with their own hands, they’re involved in a personal way,” Harlow said. “It gets their minds engaged.”

Despite funding issues, 23rd District Rep. Sherry Appleton said she also is hopeful for the center’s outcome.

“It is going to be a world-class facility,” she said. “Its goals are terrific… I am really thrilled.”

Appleton said the center’s educational facilities have important potential.

“We keep talking about our kids not having science and math in their backgrounds, and this is the perfect opportunity,” she said. “There are so many things they can do.”

Poulsbo Mayor Kathryn Quade said she’ll continue urging for funds, and hopes the center can educate local residents on ways to improve the health of the Puget Sound.

“As we’re living on the bay, marine science is a vital component in our education, both to those in school and to lifelong learners,” she said. “It has a place in all our lives.”

While the fund-raising process continues, Harlow says the center’s lasting impact — not a September opening — is the top priority.

“We want this to be around for our children and grandchildren,” he said. “We hope it’ll be viewed as a real worthwhile amenity, not just for Poulsbo, but for the whole region.”

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