Marine Science Center gets state funding

POULSBO — The closure of the Marine Science Center in March 2005 left many wondering if it would ever resurface on the shores of Liberty Bay.

It got the buoy it needed this week when the state Legislature included $250,000 in its 2006 budget to help with the start up costs of the new center.

“I feel just absolutely thrilled,” said 23rd District Rep. Sherry Appleton (D-Poulsbo) Wednesday.

As a Poulsbo City Councilwoman, Appleton, who was a primary advocate for earmarking the funds, said she remembers helping open the center. She added that having the opportunity to come to its aid as a state representative is an honor.

Having the community, mayor and city council come together along with state Sen. Phil Rockefeller was one of the keys to making the funding a reality in a short legislative session, she said.

The money will become available July 1, which means there isn’t much time for the city show the state Legislature what it’s done before the 2007 Legislative session begins next January, she said.

“We have to show that we’ve done something and that we have a plan and what we needed the additional $250,000 for,” she said. The city is expected to request an additional $250,000 in 2007 to assist the center, but no state funding is expected to be sought in 2008.

“We have made a commitment to future small children who are going to walk through those doors with a thirst for marine knowledge,” Appleton said. “I couldn’t be more pleased with what’s happened.”

Rear Admiral (Ret.) Bruce Harlow, who is president of the Poulsbo Marine Science Institute, wasn’t getting overly excited until Gov. Chris Gregoire signs the budget.

“It’s very gratifying but until it actually happens, I sort of wait-and-see,” Harlow said. “I can’t say enough about the community effort.”

The community rallied around the Marine Science Center and hopefully those efforts will have paid off, he added.

“Once it’s funded, it’s going to be an exciting program,” Harlow said.

Mayor Kathryn Quade said she couldn’t be happier with word of the state approved funding.

“I believe the community support and interaction with our council and representatives really helped,” Quade said.

With the funding consent, the next step is to get the business plan approved by the council and begin searching for a director to coordinate the partnerships and programs, Quade said.

For Bight of Poulsbo founder Bill Austin, who revived Mudstock in August to raise money to open a new marine science center, words were, for once, hard to come by.

“This is sort of beyond me and I took it as far as I could,” Austin said. “I never thought it would come this far.”

With the funding from the Legislature, the reopening of the Marine Science Center can happen, he said.

“All we need is $250,000 and we can prove ourselves,” he said.

As for the possibility of the center closing again, Austin simply said, “That won’t happen. I know it.”

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