As Grays Harbor braces for July 4 beach crowds in the wake of Phase 3 approval, local businesses and organizations have been taking steps to make their properties safe.
The Harbor’s museums have been busily preparing for reopening since the statewide shutdown began in March. Layouts have been rearranged to allow for better social distancing, sneeze shields have been put up at entry desks and hand sanitizer stations have been added.
Some also have been using the downtime to spruce up their facilities, with help from volunteers.
The Polson Museum in Hoquiam has received a full-scale makeover with fresh paint, polished floors and new ultraviolet film on the windows to protect the artifacts within. In Westport, the Maritime Museum’s lobby and gift shop area are being repainted as well.
At the Coastal Interpretive Center in Ocean Shores, board president Nancy Eldridge didn’t stop there. The CIC has launched a full interior renovation of its dated facility. As part of those alterations, a new exhibit will be installed featuring the NOAA Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary.
Since this work is expected continue through the end of this year, the main part of the center will remain closed, Eldridge said. Visitors’ interior access will be limited to the Habitat Wing and a smaller version of the gift shop on weekends only.
Outdoors, docents will conduct guided tours of the center’s exterior exhibits every hour from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; and members of the CIC’s Education Committee will lead scheduled tours of the McGee Trail and the tidepools at Damon Point.
All of the Harbor’s museums will be following state-mandated safety protocols as they open their doors once again. Some are taking extra precautions because they’re in such small spaces, making social distancing more of a challenge.
The Museum of the North Beach, for example, will be regulating the flow of visitors by requiring people to call ahead for appointments to enter the tiny Moclips facility. In the meantime, they are working to make more of their archives available online.
“We’re trying to create ways to be open without being open,” said board president Lee Marriott. “It’s been a very weird year.”
The Westport Lighthouse poses similar challenges. Visitors will be strictly regulated within that tight space. To avoid potential delays, operations manager Julie Smith recommends calling to make a reservation to climb to the top.
The Westport Maritime Museum may be easier to manage. “I think the plan we have in place will work, even with large crowds,” said Smith. “The museum has many outdoor exhibits, and the lens hall is a large open space.”
The Northwest Carriage Museum in Raymond is housed in a wide-open building and therefore able to accommodate more people at a time, said executive director Laurie Bowman.
“We feel that the museum is very safe, because we’ve got 12,000 square feet; it’s easy to socially distance,” she said. “No one’s supposed to be touching the carriages anyway, and we’ll go in and wipe anything that is touched — the door, the counter area.”
Bowman is especially excited about showing off the Carriage Museum’s newest acquisition: a rare town sleigh with doors. Her husband, curator Jerry Bowman, recently completed its restoration. “It’s really a beautiful piece,” she said.
At the Polson, executive director John Larson is equally thrilled that the Smithsonian has allowed him to extend the display of its traveling exhibit, “Hometown Teams: How Sports Shape America.” It had been here just two weeks when the museum had to be shut down, and now it will be there through Aug. 2.
As nonprofit operations, all have suffered financially through the three-month shutdown. They’ve been collecting no entry fees or gift shop revenue, and they’ve been forced to cancel or postpone crucial fundraising events and membership drives. So, like many other business operations, they were thrilled to receive the go-ahead to reopen.
“We have moved some of the merchandise from the bookstore to the Education Room and are hoping for some sales to help the bottom line,” said the CIC’s Eldridge. “We are also going to launch a membership drive and a new website.”
“This whole coronavirus thing has set us way behind,” said the Museum of the North Beach’s Marriott. “There’s so much we couldn’t do, events we weren’t able to pull off.”
The Moclips museum’s main annual fundraiser, the float sale sponsored by Avalon Glassworks, took a major hit. Still, he said, people have been making appointments to visit the museum and choose a float to purchase. In addition, he noted, Avalon sells the specially made floats directly and still donates half to the museum.
That facility suffered yet another financial blow during the shutdown: a leaky pipe in the upstairs apartment. “Luckily we caught it before it damaged (any of the museum artifacts), but a whole wall has got to be replaced,” said Marriott. “It’s been quite a setback, but we still have plans to open as soon as possible — hopefully within a month.”
The Polson had to sidetrack its popular Red Car Raffle, which raises thousands of dollars every year. “With virtually every large public event canceled this summer, our inability to successfully sell tickets forced this difficult decision,” said Larson.
Still, in light of the financial hardships faced by the entire community, he is waiving the Polson’s usual admission fees for the month of July. “We’d of course welcome your donations,” he added.
All of the Harbor’s museum operators are hopeful for recovery as they strive to keep their visitor experiences educational, fun and safe.
“As long as guests follow the guidelines, everyone should have a great experience,” said Westport’s Smith.
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IF YOU GO
Coastal Interpretive Center
Open date: July 11
Hours: Saturday-Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Notes: Main building remains closed for renovations; Habitat Wing, gift shop and outdoor exhibits open
Call: 360-289-4617 to schedule educational outdoor tours
Museum of the North Beach
Open date: Within 30 days
Hours: By appointment only
Notes: Those wishing to buy an Avalon glass float may call to schedule a pickup
Northwest Carriage Museum
Open date: June 16
Hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily
Notes: Hands-on areas remain closed for now
Call: 360- 942-4150
Open date: July 1
Hours: Wednesday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Sundays, noon to 4 p.m. (closed July 4-5)
Notes: Admission fees waived through July 31
Call: 360- 533-5862
Open date: July 1
Hours: Daily, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Notes: Climbs are limited based on social distancing ability; call in advance for best results
Call: 360-268-6214 to schedule a climb
Westport Maritime Museum
Open date: July 2
Hours: Thursday-Monday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Notes: One household per exhibit room
Call: 360- 268-0078