The Science and Math Institute, the Tacoma public school that opened inside Point Defiance Park in 2009, is getting a new temporary home for the start of the upcoming school year.
Portable classrooms have been moved from an area near the park’s main Pearl Street entrance to the site of the former Camp 6 logging museum, which closed in 2011. Camp 6 is located in the southwest portion of the park.
The temporary move was necessary to allow work on the first phase of Metro Parks’ waterfront project, according to school and parks officials. That project, underway now, will eventually include a new city stormwater facility to treat water that flows into Puget Sound, an elevated walkway connecting Ruston Way with the park, and a new 11-acre park space.
The temporary SAMI move to Camp 6 is a prelude to its move to a permanent home within the park. Tacoma Public Schools and Metro Parks have teamed up to create a shared facility that will be known as the Environmental Learning Center, which will be located inside the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium.
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The center will serve SAMI’s more than 400 students and public education and volunteer programs sponsored by the zoo.
The shared-use building will be constructed with an estimated $20 million in funding from the school construction bond approved by Tacoma voters in 2013. That figure includes the estimated $300,000 cost for moving portable classrooms to Camp 6 this summer. The school district will also install security lighting, upgrade utilities and make other improvements at Camp 6, according to Metro Parks.
The Environmental Learning Center is scheduled to open in 2017, and portable classrooms at Camp 6 will be gradually phased out.
An agreement covering the use of Camp 6 by SAMI was approved earlier this summer by both the park board and the school board. It runs through January 2018, with an option for an extension.
Agreements between the two governments also ensure that SAMI students will continue to have access to other park facilities they’ve been using for several years, including the Pagoda, Fort Nisqually, Owen Beach shelters and the park marina.
Spokespeople for both Metro Parks and Tacoma Public Schools emphasize that the two entities want to create a “shared vision” for park visitors and SAMI students centered on environmental education.
Camp 6 operated on a 14-acre site inside Point Defiance Park for 47 years. Most of the logging and railroad artifacts — including bunkhouses, steam donkeys, a Lidgerwood skidder and Shay locomotive — were sold to a logging museum in Willits, Calif.
Learn more: Explore the Shore
The architect for the new Environmental Learning Center to be built at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, as well as representatives of Metro Parks and Tacoma Public Schools, will be at the Explore the Shore event at Owen Beach on Friday. The event begins at 10:45 a.m. Visitors will see updated drawings featuring the center’s design.