The Dungeness River Audubon Center at Railroad Bridge Park is an active partnership of three organizations operating under an MOU.
The two original partners were:
- Rainshadow Natural Science Foundation (renamed “River Center Foundation”)
- Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe
and two partners were added in 1997
- Olympic Peninsula Audubon Society
- National Audubon Society (NAS) represented by Audubon Washington, The WA State Office of NAS.
The story of our museum begins with the Sequim Natural History Museum which for nine years was an adjunct of the Sequim School District, created and maintained entirely by volunteers. In 1993 the museum’s space in the old high school building had to be relinquished for school district use, and the specimens and exhibit materials were stored.
Soon thereafter, the museum took advantage of a unique opportunity to reorganize as a nonprofit corporation — the Rainshadow Natural Science Foundation — and to join forces with the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe in a partnership to interpret the natural history of the river, the watershed, and the Olympic Peninsula.
The Rainshadow Natural Science Foundation needed a permanent home for its displays and a facility for educational programs. The Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe has always been deeply involved with the well-being of the Dungeness River and the restoration of the salmon. The Railroad Bridge Park, dedicated in 1992, is an exceptional setting for an interpretive center. It was natural for the Foundation and the Tribe to cooperate in working toward these compatible goals by developing the River Center.
In 1992, many volunteers helped replace the railroad ties and planked deck of the former railroad bridge. The approach trestle provides elevated views into the woodland canopy as well as varied river vistas. A nature trail provides glimpses of local wildlife and the native plants and trees.
The bridge and trestle, and the river-edge trails, provide opportunities for visitors to experience an ever-changing river channel and the contrast of summer quiet to winter storms.
The Railroad Bridge and trestle were completely planked in restoration for
pedestrian and bicycle access. Projecting alcoves and occasional seating areas along the railings allow for quiet viewing out of the traffic zone. The ramp structure at the east bridge end provides easy access for physically-challenged visitors.
Broad pathways of paver-stones laid by volunteers provide easy access to the RiverStage, the RiverShed and the east approach ramp of the Railroad Bridge.
The RiverShed — an elegant timber-frame shelter with permanent picnic tables and benches — provides a quiet setting in the woods near the river for programs and casual gatherings. The shelter was completed in the autumn of 1995, using donated materials and volunteer labor together with grant funding, with design by Ken Hays, a Sequim Architect.
The RiverStage is an open amphitheater with stage and seating for 75. It was designed and constructed by local volunteers with grant funding and local volunteer labor, with construction leadership and supervision by Chas Bridge and design by Ken Wiersema. It was completed in late spring 1997 and first used for the summer River Talks.
The planning and construction of the River Center interpretive building are complete, and the Grand Opening was celebrated on 21 October 2001. The 1,600 sq ft building provides exhibit, classroom/lab, and meeting space, and supporting facilities.
The multi-purpose space of the Center building includes scientific exhibits, hands-on displays, physical specimens, classroom study aids, and reference library materials.
Computer database and multimedia presentation capabilities are provided in the new Center building to support classroom studies, audience programs and technical workgroup sessions.
Olympic Peninsula Audubon meets on the third Wednesday of the month in the Center building for its programs about environmental interpretation and nature study, typically attended by 40-60 members.