"Reserve, museum may get town cash"
July 3, 2008 · Updated 12:33 PM
"Open space and historic preservation are part of what sets Coupeville apart from other places. And over the years, those two attributes have proven to be assets as well, attracting both new residents and tourists.That's why two of Coupeville's most historic attractions could be getting some financial support soon. From Coupeville.On Monday, Coupeville Mayor Nancy Conard said she will ask the town council to approve spending $5,000 a year to help support Ebey's Landing National Historical Reserve and the Island County Historical Museum.The request will come at the council's June 13 meeting.The money would be drawn from the town's general fund. A total of $3,000 would go to the Trust Board at Ebey's Reserve - 17,000 acres of woods and farms bordering Coupeville - and $2,000 to the museum.Given Coupeville's symbiotic relationship with both places, Conard said contributing town money is the right thing to do.I believe that we have an obligation to be supportive, she said. The fact that we're in a declared national reserve certainly reinforces our interest in historic preservation, and it's just a hand-in-glove relationship.The town already donates part of its 2 percent hotel/motel tax take to the reserve, Conard said, but the amount - between $1,200 and $1,800 a year - fluctuates and can only be used for tourism promotion.A regular contribution, on the other hand, would be a dependable source of income for the reserve, she said.Not only that, but the money would double in value according to Gretchen Luxenberg, National Parks Service liaison to Ebey's Trust Board.Ebey's LandingFour agencies partner to manage the reserve, including the town of Coupeville, Island County, the National Parks Service and Washington State Parks.The Parks Service, Luxenberg said, matches up to 100 percent of what the other partners contribute. That means Coupeville's $3,000 could equate to as much as $6,000, she said.Coupeville has helped in other ways, with staff time and management support, Luxenberg said. But the financial contribution is an important element and shows their long-term commitment, that they're really at the table as a participating player. What's been proposed is very exciting.Besides, she added, people rarely visit the reserve without visiting Coupeville too.It's part of heritage tourism, she said. People aren't just coming to the reserve or its beach to throw rocks. They want to see historic buildings and farms, get an ice cream or eat dinner or buy art at one of Coupeville's stores.If approved, Coupevilles' $3,000 would go to support the operating budget for the reserve's staff, whose mission, basically, is to protect the open fields, forest and historic farmland that buffer Coupeville from development.The way that's accomplished, said reserve manager Rob Harbour, is by purchasing scenic easements within the reserve's boundaries.In addition, Harbour said, the reserve staff wants to do more oral history programs, offer more guided walks and talks on the prairie and develop more interpretive panels.And all that comes out of the operating budget that Coupeville would be helping with, he said.The MuseumIf Coupeville's town council agrees, the Island County Historical Museum would be the other recipient of town funds.It would be a welcome addition to a tight budget, said acting director Billie Jordan.We can use it in our general fund, Jordan said Monday. We're operating on a solvent basis but it's less than half of what it should be. And we're running strictly on volunteers, and they're getting weary.Five full-time and 28 part-time volunteers run the museum's gift shop and front desk, build the exhibits, catalogue historical data and run education programs, Jordan said. All on a budget of between $20,000 and $30,000 a year. Island County kicks in $2,500 a year, she added, but that barely covers one month's operating expenses.The rest of the money comes from admission prices, donations and memberships. An additional $2,000 would give the museum almost another's month's operating expenses.And we'd love it, Jordan said. Conard describes the museum as a bare-bones operation. Other towns and counties, she said, often support their museums in terms of staff, or space, or with foundations through which people bequest money.After all, she said, Coupeville's history is an intrinsic part of its appeal.Here we are an historic community, Conard said. Who else is preserving our history except for the museum.Conard isn't sure how the council or the audience will react to her proposal. But she's hopeful most will approve, given Coupeville's relationship and reliance on open spaces and historic preservation. We don't have a lot of money to give a lot but I think this is a reasonable amount given our budget."