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Deception Pass manager wants nearby building for visitor's center

When a nearby building was put on the market for sale, the manager of Deception Pass State Park said he saw an opportunity to try and make a dream a reality.

Jack Hartt said he wants to establish a visitor’s center for the state park in the building, to let people know about all the opportunities available.

“We’re the busiest park, and we have zero ways to tell people what’s here,” he said.

The building, Seabolt’s convenience store located near the park’s offices on State Highway 20, was put up for sale this past winter.

The idea of establishing a visitor’s center for the park has been a goal for years.

However, Hartt said, “This is the first time that we’ve been able to look at it and say, it’s for sale; it’s right next door. It’s actually inside the park boundaries.”

If the parks system is able to purchase the building, Hartt said it would be converted into a place where people can find information about the park, it’s history, what it has to offer, as well as information about Whidbey Island as a whole.

He said he also wants to establish an area where campers can buy supplies such as food, drinks, matches and whatever else they might need.

More than that, the building could be used as an education center for the park.

Liz Merriman, president of the Deception Pass Park Foundation, a nonprofit, said she also has ideas for what the building could be used for.

“One thing that we hope to accomplish in the future is to focus on the education and evolve into an institute … for learning,” Merriman said.

“There’s lots to share about that park, lots to teach, lots to educate about.”

Jen Rosquist, a camper on the park visiting for her fifth or sixth time, said she agrees that a visitor’s center would be a great benefit.

“I just think it would be good for people to learn more about the area, and be able to know about the surrounding islands,” Rosquist said. “A visitor’s center would be really helpful.”

Hartt said that in this building, partners could sell tickets to park tours and the Chamber of Commerce could offer information about the island.

“Having a gathering place where all these things could come together would be really wonderful for this park,” he said. “You give people a chance to understand what’s here, and those who are here, a chance to share their messages with people.”

Standing in the way of making the purchase is money.

Hartt said there is $200,000 from Washington State Parks to put towards this purchase, but the asking price is $600,000 more than that.

“It’s just a lot of money, and at this point, we don’t know any people who have that kind of resources, other than everybody together,” Hartt said.

“Maybe if we all come together, we could raise that much money.”

Hartt and the park are hoping people will donate money towards this purchase. Donating through the foundation would be tax deductible because it’s a 501c3.

They’ve just started looking into fundraising, according to Hartt, and have no official plans. He said they’ve considered opportunities like a Kickstarter campaign, but they haven’t really started looking into it yet. He said he would need somebody with more expertise in online marketing to help make that work.

Hartt added that the park would be willing to work with people donating a lot of money to try and let them benefit from the revenue of the visitor’s center, as well.

Hartt said he is positive that, if the building is purchased, it would pay for itself and be making a profit within a few years.

“We know it would pay for itself, we know it would be successful, we just have to get through that hurdle of finding the down payment and the total purchase price,” he said.

“We hope that the snowball grows and people see the value to it,” Hartt said.

“It would benefit the entire island to have this kind of opportunity available to our visitors.”

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