Executive Summary

Executive Summary

A group of local area teachers, called the Teachers’ Task Force, formed to create an effective Community Environmental Education Center jointly located at the proposed Brightwater wastewater treatment facility. Their proposal, completed in 2003 and revised in 2004, concluded that the center would fulfill four sometimes competing needs.
  • First, the need for a wastewater facility to meet public safety requirements for clean water.
  • The need for a community center for local gatherings.
  • A growing need for a park in the local community.
  • To fulfill the need for a regional environmental education facility that will help the community learn to balance the needs of our environment with the wants of its people.

In response to this situation, the Task Force proposed ways to develop a Center that would achieve maximum benefit for the citizens and students of their community and be a model for other communities facing these same competing needs. Here is a brief summary of their findings.

Ø The Task Force recommends that a Regional Community Environmental Education Center be planned, constructed, and operated using Brightwater project mitigation funds. Funds should include program development, outreach, and transportation for classes to and from regional schools. Additionally, the Task Force recommends that all other project mitigations be evaluated to maximize their educational potential.

Ø Funds from federal, state, local, private, and site-generated revenues should be obtained to supplement project mitigation funds for both construction and M&O. Site generated revenues include fees for rental of the Center facilities and sales from a gift shop.

Ø The Task Force recommends that the Center’s facilities and grounds include a community hall (300 person capacity), two laboratories, exhibit hall, flexible use spaces, offices, education nodes, grounds and stream restoration, and creation of looped, interpretive trails. Key goals for the Center are to build a plant for education that protects the environment, creates a landscape for education and the environment, ensures access to water for education/environmental studies, and involves our community.

Ø It is recommended that the wastewater treatment facility be designed and built with education in mind, day-lighting all major processes for educational study, and provide active and physical models of the wastewater treatment process.

Ø As a first alternative, it is proposed that the center be run by a Public/Private Partnership that is administered by a Board of Directors and Executive Director.

Ø Staffing should eventually include up to 11-13 full and part time positions, supplemented by interns and volunteers. Maximum daytime program loads would be 120-150 students, with at least 30 more students with outreach programs. Weekend and evening programs are a possibility. The center would serve 35,000-50,000 visitors and over 12,000 students annually.

Ø To highlight the importance of proper stewardship in the community, the center should be constructed, staffed, and funded as soon as possible, beginning with outreach programs. This will allow the staff to begin building a broad base of community support immediately.

Ø This facility will help fill a significant gap in environmental education programs as it reveals a complete story of the water cycle. There are outstanding programs already in existence to enlighten people about the importance of wetlands, estuaries, and water conservation. However, the critical role that wastewater plays in today’s ecology goes largely ignored. Citizens simply turn on the tap, flush the toilet, and over 200 million gallons of wastewater vanishes into King County’s “Hidden River of Waste” every day.

Ø The center should deliver programs in six major thematic areas: Water, Wastewater, Conservation & Stewardship, Ecology & Environment, Energy & Alternative Energy Sources, and Technology. Programs are to address all ages of community members and use an experiential, integrated, hands-on, minds-on approach to learning.

Ø Considerations for funding the operation and maintenance of the center include the following ideas: A small sewer charge of about 10-15 cents / month, an endowed education fund, and energy funds from the generation and cost savings associated with the production and or sale of methane, bio-solids, and reclaimed water. To augment major funds, other potential sources include grants, business underwriting and gift shop sales. While services and room use would be free for education needs, various fees for the use of the center rooms and services for other groups could be charged.

Ø Finally, a critical balance exists between the ability of a center to accomplish its vision and mission versus the combination of dollars it receives, the sustainability of its programs, and the amount of community support it develops and sustains. While dynamic leadership can cover some gaps in the short term, long term gaps in support, funding, and programs will signal the center’s demise. The task force strongly recommends this balance be considered at all stages of the center’s development if it is to endure. The Task Force recommends the center not be built at all if these conditions cannot be achieved.

Benchmarks of success. If properly developed, the center will demonstrate the following traits:
  • The center’s programs will continuously evolve over time
  • The community will be involved in programs at all levels
  • Professional environmental education leadership opportunities are offered to train our citizens and future leaders.
  • The center will offer strong, engaging curriculum that keeps it at capacity
  • Community members & partner groups will use facility “after” hours
  • Funding sources will be secure
  • Supplemental income will be generated

In summary, if these goals are achieved the center will positively affect the economy (less waste = less money required for treatment) and foster a cleaner environment (less pollutants). Finally, the facility will help strengthen our community by developing informed citizens who use resources wisely and are better prepared to meet future environmental challenges in our community.