The Willapa National Wildlife Refuge has rough designs for a new headquarters and visitor center that could be built at either one of the two sites being considered on the federal preserve. Manager Jackie Ferrier said the staff has long outgrown its offices in a cramped 1940s building at 3888 U.S. Highway 101, about a 15-minute drive from downtown Long Beach, WA.
Although the project has yet to be funded, officials have been taking in design and site ideas at public meetings. Input is being taken online until Oct. 7 about preliminary plans for a Natural Resources Center. Ferrier provided an update on construction plans at a well-attended public meeting at the Washington State University Extension Station in Long Beach last week.
About half of the proposed 10,000-square-foot building would house viewing spaces, visitor areas, classrooms, a gift shop, classrooms, and meeting rooms. Refuge staff would use the other half for administrative offices, partial designs show. If federal dollars don’t come through, Ferrier said, she’ll work with the refuge nonprofit to try to raise the money.
Designing the building so it would work at either site was complicated because different environmental factors had to be considered for each, said Angela Hansen, an Idaho-based consultant with CTA Architects Engineers. Both locations give people more access to scenic beaches, coastal dunes, old-growth forests, estuaries, salt marshes, muddy tidal flats, and ample wildlife watching opportunities on the almost 17,000-acre refuge. However, there are also construction and design challenges at either site.