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KEEN AWARDED $150,000 For Yakima Canyon Interpretive Center Feasibility

The Kittitas Environmental Education Network (KEEN) received $150,000 towards completing feasibility for the Yakima Canyon Interpretive Center at Helen McCabe Memorial State Park. This funding will allow KEEN to complete a full cultural resources survey for the 64-acre park they adopted in 2004. The funding will also allow their architect, Marc Brown Architecture & Design, to complete 30% design of the facility.

Just five miles south of Ellensburg, the Yakima Canyon Interpretive Center will serve as a destination for visitors and community members, provide science-based learning opportunities for all ages, and connect our community to nature. Nearly 1.5 million people drive through the Yakima River Canyon Scenic Byway each year, and the Center, located at its mouth will share:

· Natural playgrounds, restored shrub-steppe habitat, and nature explorations

· Visitor activities – wine tasting and gift shop

· Fishing and boating access

· Event rentals – weddings, meetings, reunions, and birthdays

· Lectures, special presentations, and programming for seniors

· Outdoor preschool, afterschool, and summer camp programs

· Naturalist training and master birder certifications

· Citizen science and hands-on restoration

· Environmental education curriculum integrated into school curriculum

KEEN recently hired an innovative architectural team that emphasizes artisanship, collaboration, and sustainability. With a carbon neutral footprint and a net zero energy design, the Center will promote wise stewardship for the land, water, wildlife, and cultural resources of our region. Marc Brown Architecture & Design is working with KEEN to bring a new vision to the Center.

Though Washington is known as the evergreen state, the Yakima River Canyon is nestled lovingly in the shrub-steppe ecoregion with rainfall so scarce that trees are hard-pressed to persist. The native habitats in this region are subtle, diverse, and highly endangered. With the highest density of passerines in the state and wandering big horn sheep, it is a wildlife-watchers dream. Nesting birds of prey, a vitally important salmonid nursery, ancient basalt lava flows, Blue Ribbon trout fishery, and timeless Native American history all make the Canyon a remarkable place.

The Yakima Canyon Interpretive Center (The Center) will celebrate and share this special place with the world.

The Center is the gateway to the 26-mile-long Yakima River Canyon Scenic Byway. The Center is inextricably tied to the Canyon with its endangered shrub-steppe habitat, wildlife communities, stunning landscapes, and vital recreational opportunities.

Approximately 10 million years ago the ridges and valleys of the Yakima Canyon fold belt started to form. This area was pressured simultaneously from the north and south causing it to be wrinkled like a table cloth being pushed together. As the ridges rose at the rate of a few inches per millennium, the Yakima River kept down-cutting its channel to maintain its established course. After a million years of uplift and simultaneous erosion, the river’s meandering course is now deeply entrenched. The shrub-steppe habitat that arose on the hillsides with a combination of acidic soils and low rainfall, is one of the world’s richest ecosystems and supports a wide variety of animal and plant life.

The future home of the Yakima Canyon Interpretive Center rests on the ancestral lands of the fourteen Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation. The people of the Yakama Nation inhabited more than 12 million acres across Central Washington. We honor those native peoples who are tied to the land through history, legends, and culture. We acknowledge their descendants who live in the world today. We thank the caretakers of this land, who have lived here and continue to live here since time immemorial.

Serving thousands of life-long learners each year, The Center will encourage passion and awe for outdoor education and experiences that promote a healthy respect and appreciation for the natural world. School field trips, evening lectures, special events, and summer camps will inspire a generation of people to make wise and informed decisions about how our environment sustains us.

Adults may find they enjoy the tranquility of cross-country skiing through towering Ponderosa Pines or simply reading a book in the fresh air with a light breeze. Seniors can easily access the trails, join in on science activities, and volunteer at The Center as docents and leaders for school groups. The Center will take care to ensure everyone of all ages, all stages, and all abilities can enjoy nature. Our community calendar will be filled with opportunities for everyone to join us in education, recreation, and conservation activities.

Find out more at


Additional Background Information

For 23 years KEEN has inspired a nature-based ethic in our community with unique outdoor educational programs, hands-on habitat restoration, and creating a sense of place for learners of all ages. Hundreds of thousands of dollars of grant funding and volunteer sweat equity committed to habitat restoration and recreation improvements at the future home of The Center reflects two decades of KEEN’s commitment and passion for our region.

KEEN believes that it is our ethical and moral duty to educate and engage our community in its own environmental future. Having a restored area with ecosystem services, offering stepping-stone connectivity within the Yakima corridor, is a big part of that future. We believe that having protected and rehabilitated areas on the edge of town are critical to connecting our community to nature, effecting change, and eliciting behavioral changes.

KEEN's mission is to cultivate an active understanding of the impacts of climate change on the endangered shrub-steppe and foster commitment to environmental stewardship by providing culturally relevant nature-based education.

KEEN believes in lifelong-learning and provides informal environmental educational opportunities for kids, adults, and seniors. KEEN hosts annual events including Winter Fair, Get Intimate with the Shrub-Steppe, the Yakima River Canyon Bird Fest, Urban Stream Streams & Brews, and WindFall Cider Fest. We collaborate with subject-area experts for field trip leaders, speakers, and provide learning opportunities and connections to affinity groups at all our events. Our goal is to share and build the strong sense of place that KEEN recognizes in Kittitas County, particularly the endangered shrub-steppe habitat.

KEEN’s Nature School programs include Pond to Pines Summer Camp that runs for 7 weeks each summer and 4th grade camp for all schools in Ellensburg. We also operate an afterschool program called Earth Explorers and a free environmental education program in Ellensburg City Parks called the Windy City Park Rangers.

Marc Brown Design is a full-service architecture firm registered in the state of Washington and located in Ellensburg. Marc Brown is the principal architect, and is assisted by 2 production staff. We have been

practicing in Kittitas County since 2012, first in Cle Elum, then opening an Ellensburg office in early 2016.

Over his 35-year career, Marc Brown has worked on a wide range of project types from small residential

renovations to large institutional buildings. We have extensive experience with renovation and restoration work, particularly on historic buildings. We are a small firm, and we carefully limit the number of projects we take on at any one time, choosing to pursue projects that are of particular interest to us. This allows Marc Brown to be personally and deeply involved with every aspect of each project, and to apply his extensive experience to successfully meet the goals of each client.


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