Plans underway to boost activities at Forks Community Center

Thousands of square feet of meeting, kitchen and office space at the Forks Community Center lies vacant most of the week.

That is beginning to change.

The Quillayute Valley Parks and Recreation District Board (QVPRD) is working to make the center, and the adjacent Forks Aquatic Center building, a hub of community activities.

Former Forks Mayor Nedra Reed, who is now serving as chair of the QVPRD, said by early September the aquatic center, commonly known as the “pool building,” should be housing a workout and fitness center.

“We’re meeting this week with Charlotte Wedrick (manager of the Health First Fitness Center in Forks) to go over final private-public documents. We hope to have a signed document by the end of next week, and a permanent document on the second Wednesday of April. At that point a bid will go out for a retrofit for the pool. Hopefully Charlotte will move in by early September.”

The retrofit would provide a tenant for the pool side of the facility, bringing in income that would pay for ongoing bills such as utilities and insurance.

Wedrick provided the QVPRD a vision statement last year that included eventually using some of the now-empty pool for lap swimming and exercise. The pool, funded with a bond issue, opened for about 18 months before rising fuel costs to heat the pool forced its closing.

On the community center side of the complex, an agreement is being worked on that would put management of the building under Clallam County’s Forks office of its Housing Resources Center (HRC). Bill Plumley, an HRC staff member and former manager of the nearby, now shuttered, Forks senior center, is overseeing scheduling and renting of meeting space at the community center on a volunteer basis.

Plumley, Reed and others are helping to bring life back to the community center, especially for seniors. A recent Valentine’s luncheon filled the dining area of the center with seniors, she said.

Plumley said sponsors are being sought to run future seniors gatherings, such as civic organizations and churches. This would provide “a place for senior citizens to have a meal, socialize,” he said.

Plumley and HRC Forks manager Kris Clark are planning to hold a community gather at the center to discuss plans for its future use and to promote the center for gatherings.

Volunteer help could be used at the center, Plumley said. He said such work would make for a great senior project for high school students.

Former center manager OlyCAP of Port Townsend moved out recently and its local office is now located within the state Department of Health and Human Services office building located along Bogachiel Way.

“Hopefully we’ll be able to market the facility for use by the community” which was its original purpose, Reed said.

The marketing efforts are starting to draw gatherings. The Forks Grange is sponsoring a seniors gathering on March 18. The Nazarene Church of Forks’ weekly Feeding the 5,000 free lunch meets at the center each Wednesday. Private birthday parties are also being held.

Reed said rentals from meetings an celebrations held at the Forks Community Center are needed to help pay for the upkeep of the facility.

“It’s important that QVPRD manage the building to provide a revenue stream to offset the cost of utilities, we’re not a money making organization, but we need to maintain the facility in an appropriate way,” Reed said.

Events open to the public, such as voters forum and community meetings will have no charge, but donations may be sought to offset costs of lighting and heating.

Another avenue of marketing includes offering a vacant office for rent, either short-term or long-term with the income going to pay the bills for the center.

“A lot of community organizations used the building for free – there was no revenue,” Reed said. “Now we are unable to accommodate these organizations; the faithful renters we are willing to give them a reduced rate to use facility.”

A rental agreement drawn up by the QVPRD for use of the community center lists prices for one-day use. A room rental is $25.00; the dining room and adjacent kitchen would be $65.00; the kitchen only, with a possible use as a commercial kitchen for cooking food products, would be $50.00. A refundable $50.00 deposit would be required. No alcoholic beverages are allowed in the center.

Also helping to keep the building open is rent now coming in from the HRC.

“Their rent will help pay costs,” but not all that is needed, Reed said of the agreement, which she said is beneficial to both parties.

To book an event at the Forks Community Center contact either Plumley or Forks HRC manager Clark at 374-2558.