Port Gamble adds new ‘environmental tenant’

PORT GAMBLE — Last Thursday’s grand opening of the latest commercial tenant in Port Gamble was more than just an open house luncheon — it was the introduction to a new chapter in the next phase of redevelopment of the old logging site.

While Olympic Property Group President Jon Rose and his staff have been working the past few years to bring in tourism and business, Rose introduced what he expects to be the text written for the next page of the town’s history — a master plan for the town’s redevelopment that will have a strong education-based theme of arts, horticulture and also the marine environment.

The opening of the offices and laboratory of Pennsylvania-based Weston Solutions Inc. last week was the first step in establishing an academic marine environment, Rose said. The company, which operates worldwide and has a staff of more than 1,700, will provide experimentally-based solutions for environmental problems.

“We are thrilled to have Weston, not only for economic vitality,” said Rose. “But what makes Weston an exciting client of ours is they are a fit for Port Gamble’s future.”

The staff of 11 — and growing — will occupy two locations in town: a single-level office building on NE View Drive, as well as the newly constructed Port Gamble Environmental Laboratory, located on the northwestern bank of the old mill site. The office and lab will be run by Dr. Jack Word, who has been operating a smaller lab in Sequim the past several years.

Areas of interest to be addressed include aquatic and marine toxicology, environmental risk assessment, watershed science, technology development, sediment management and hazardous materials evaluation.

Word said he wanted to build a lab that solved “top environmental problems,” which includes researching how dredged materials can be reused in the environment safely. This work will require bringing in people from around the world to visit the new laboratory, he said.

As for why an international scientific company decided to base their latest facility in Port Gamble, the location was just right for the company’s needs, said Weston vice president Peggy Lobnitz. In order to simulate proper conditions for marine experiments, the lab needs direct access to ocean water and being located on the Hood Canal fulfills that need.

While some of Port Gamble’s store owners weren’t sure what Weston was all about before Thursday, they certainly liked what they heard afterward.

“I personally think it’s good karma for our town,” said Ms. Beehavin’ Antiques owner Jan Robin.

“It goes along with our restoration of the town,” added Best Friends Antiques owner Sheila Waters. “It’s bringing a different quality of people in town.”

Kingston’s Stillwaters Environmental Education Center directors Joleen Palmer and Naomi Maasberg were also happy to hear about the newcomers to the area.

“It’s very much something that we promote in our education effort,” Palmer said, adding that the international component is intriguing.

Maasberg said she’s excited to see how the company and the non-profit could work together on educational aspects. Plus, it’s something other than retail or tourism in the Kitsap economy.

“That can’t do anything but help the economic situation,” she said.

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