The Hiram M. Chittenden Locks is moving steadily towards its 100th anniversary on July 4, 2017, with the aim to complete the Locks Master Plan in time for the celebrations.
According to the Army Corps of Engineers, the Locks has experienced a decline in funding over the yeas as the facility has deteriorated and traffic has increased. This decline in funding is due mainly to the fact that the facilities available at the Locks are free to the public including when locals use it for commercial purposes.
“The Locks operational funds are based on commercial tonnage of ship cargo, not actual boat traffic. Since the Locks opened, commercial cargo has declined significantly and is now a small fraction of the annual 50,000+ boats that use the locks,” says Rich Deline from the Army Corps of Engineers.
In terms of tourism, despite the popularity of the Ballard Locks as a destination, the Army Corps of Engineers reports that tourism revenue amounts to less than 60 cents per visitor for the Fish Ladder, English Gardens and Visitor Center combined.
To address these pressing financial needs and in anticipation of the Centennial in 2017, national non-profit Corps of Engineers Foundation in partnership with regional non-profit Discover Your Northwest have teamed up to produce the Locks Master Plan to improve the visitor experience at the Locks with public involvement and funding.
The first step completed in the Locks Master Plan was a Comprehensive Interpretive Design donated by the nationally-renowned Seattle architectural firm, Jones & Jones, in concert with the Corps of Engineers Seattle District.
The Interpretive Design, created by the firm’s well known architect Johnpaul Jones, calls for World-Class Facilities that are set to benefit both the Ballard community and the City of Seattle as a whole.
Progress is currently being made on a number of elements of the Locks Master Plan, including the installation of six portable interpretive touchscreens (pictured below) located around the site. These touchscreens will provide much needed information about the site as well as solicit public support for restoration.
A state-of-the-art HD projection system was also recently installed in the visitor center theater which now allows the space to be used for special interest programs and video screenings.
Up next to be completed is an upgrade to the fish ladder viewing room (pictured below) which is set to bring it up to modern educational and visitor comfort standards. The upgrade will include improved lighting, acoustics and larger viewing windows along with digital display technologies to better educate the public and help alleviate visitor disappointment when salmon are not visible.
“Stop by the Locks and see what’s happening and how you can help support the Ballard Locks Centennial and Locks Master Plan improvements,” says Deline.
Click here to check out updates as the Master Plan
Photos and images courtesy of the Army Corps of Engineers.