Park information center move decision delayed

Olympic National Park Deputy Superintendent Todd Suess spoke at the Forks Chamber of Commerce’s weekly luncheon meeting held Wednesday, April 20 at JT’s Sweet Stuffs.

He provided an update on the status of the Olympic National Park’s Information center now located in the City of Forks’ Forks Transit Center building on South Forks Avenue.

He was asked by Chamber members about the possibility of moving the information center to the Olympic National Forest Service office on Tillicum Lane. The  move would require visitors to drive about an eighth mile off Forks Avenue to pickup information and permits provided by Olympic National Park.
The move would also vacate an income-generating section of the city’s transit center.

Suess said the Forest Service is looking over a contract for use of their space by the National Park.
At the Forks City Council meeting held Monday evening, April 25 Mayor Bryon Monohon reported that the move is at least a year off. He said he has been contacted by the National Forest with the news.

Last week, Monohon responded to the Forks Forum request for a statement on the situation.
He replied: “The city is interested in finding the best possible tenants and uses for all of our facilities which is why we have a facilities committee as one of our council initiative drives this year.  We hope that ONP decides to stay in the facility and there are several ideas being discussed which have not been brought up with them yet that I believe would lead them to find the facility more attractive for their usage.  It is my belief that there is a lot of interest and that possibilities exist to utilize the facility in a more visible and supportive manner for our citizens and visitors alike whether ONP opts to stay or not.  I look forward to discussing the issue with Todd as some of our options become clearer over the next two or three months.  I have met once with Todd and also Dean Millet of the USFS last summer. Our discussions were cordial and I would expect the best possible outcomes for all of us.”

At the Chamber meeting last week Suess said a similar information station was closed years ago at Quinault. Another one is open at Hoodsport and run by the National Forest Service.
If the information center was moved it would likely be relocated at the entrance to the Forest Service building. The Forest Service is located adjacent to the state Department of Natural Resources Forks office adjacent to Tillicum Park.

The decision has been 18 months in the works, Suess said, and no firm decision has yet been made.
He said he met last year with Monohon to discuss the potential move. It’s likely, Suess said, that at least through summer 2011 Rangers from the Olympic National Park will be offering information to visitors from their current location.

He said the information office is open seven days a week from June through October,
If moved to the National Forest office, the hours would likely be extended, Suess said.
He said the Park Service is weighing the benefits of saving the cost of renting the transit center space to the service to visitors it provides in a prominent location in Forks.

Chamber members discussed the disadvantages of moving the information center in regards to serving visitors. Having large RV’s driving into the Forest Service parking lot would make for a tight squeeze when turning around it was remarked.

Mike Gurling, a former interpretive guide with the Olympic National Park, is the manager of the Chamber’s Visitor Information Center located across from the Forks Municipal Airport. Gurling said he often helps visitor with park information. Olympic National Park materials are handed out to visitors by the Chamber.

Suess said signage would be placed along the highway to direct visitors seeking information to the relocated park office.

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