Sequim Gazette staff
For many, the Dungeness River Audubon Center is a treasure trove of information about the wonders of nature.
Nature made quite an impact on the center itself, when a sprinkler pipe in the ceiling burst on Sunday, Dec. 8, during an art class. The design of the system immediately kicked on a fire pump, releasing about 2,500 gallons of water into the building.
In the span of 10 minutes, water pouring from the ceiling covered an estimated 90 percent of the center’s floor to a depth of nearly 1.5 inches,” center spokesmen said last week.
The center, in Railroad Bridge Park at 2151 W. Hendrickson Road in Sequim, will be closed until repairs and restoration are complete.
The center will be closed at least through Jan. 1 for restoration that includes replacing of drywall, insulation and wiring, and repairing of sprinklers.
“Although the center sustained major damage, at least no one was injured in the flood,” director Powell Jones said.
“We hope to reopen by early next year,” Jones said.
When it reopens, the center resumes winter hours and will welcome visitors 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Friday and noon-4 p.m. Saturdays.
Center officials credit artist/instructor Robert Amaral and art class students for minimizing damage to the center’s collection of taxidermy birds. (The Dungeness River Audubon Center provides the largest collection of museum-quality mounted birds and other wildlife on the Olympic Peninsula.)
Although the center is closed, many scheduled meetings and events are still scheduled; they simply have been rescheduled and/or moved to other locations. Monday afternoon’s chili feed following the Sequim-Dungeness Christmas Bird Count was moved from the river center to the Red Cedar Hall on the Jamestown Tribal Campus in Blyn.
Check the River Center web site (www.dungenessrivercenter.org) or the center’s FaceBook page (www.facebook.com/dungenessriverauduboncenter) for updates.
The center did lose a unique nature mural by renowned local artist Tim Quinn, who died in 2009. About eight square feet of the mural on the south wall had to be removed to eliminate all the water intrusion and chances for mold. Jones said he hopes the damaged area can be restored.
Jones noted that the extent of the damage still is being evaluated and estimates of the cost of restoration are not yet available.
He credited former center director Bob Boekelheide, River Center board members Ken Wiersema and Annette Nesse, park host Linda Dolan, education coordinator Becca Nissley and Clallam County Fire District 3 for their decisive actions that helped limit the damage.
Though both the nature and interpretive center and Railroad Bridge Park are open to the public at no charge, they do not receive any support from local or state taxes; support comes largely from memberships and donations.
The 53-acre Railroad Bridge Park, which opened with just five acres in 1992, is owned by the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe.
The Railroad Bridge, built in 1915, was placed on the National Register of Historic Places because it is one of the few remaining timber Howe through-truss bridges in Washington.
The park provides habitat for more than 125 bird species and four threatened fish species – all within one mile of Sequim.