Being gone for over a generation makes one seem like Rip Van Winkle! After over a 20-year absence from providing forestry education to students in southwestern Washington, Grays Harbor College is back. The forest technology program, now the third one in Washington behind Green River and Spokane Valley, was approved by the State Board of Community and Technical Colleges in the spring of 2009 and is on the verge of graduating its first class of students this coming fall.
How did this happen, you ask, given the downturn in the economy these past few years? The days of fully-funded technology programs are gone and community colleges have been forced to look elsewhere for partnerships. The college, located in Aberdeen, didn’t have to look far for a willing partner because just down the road in Elma is Satsop Development Park. The park is owned and operated by the Grays Harbor Public Development Authority (GHPDA) that took over the Grays Harbor County facilities of the defunct Washington Public Power Supply System. The development park has approximately 1,200 acres of site 1 forestland surrounding the industrial facilities. The GHPDA were looking for partners to manage their resources while providing educational opportunities in natural resource management. Partnering with Grays Harbor College was a natural fit.
The college has adopted the guiding principles of the Society of American Foresters “Standards and Procedures for Recognizing Educational Programs in Forest Technology” and has formed the natural resources program around these standards. The 12 technical subject areas for the forest technology curriculum, along with necessary classes in oral and written communication, mathematics, natural and physical sciences, social sciences, business and computer skills have been boiled down to 24 courses taken in a span of two years with 106 quarters hours of credit attributed to these classes. The program should meet all of the expectations set forth in the recognition standards of 2007 except for the minimum number of full-time faculty. At this time it is financially difficult to bring on another faculty member in forest technology, but with double-digit enrollment in the classes there is hope for the future with brighter budget allocations.
Grays Harbor College currently has a healthy program enrollment of 30 to 40 students. These students wanted to become more involved with extra-curricular activities and interaction with other foresters. With the help of Washington State SAF Chair John Walkowiak, Council Representative Chuck Lorenz and all of the members of the Southwest Washington Chapter, the bylaws for a student chapter were written. These were recently adopted by the executive committee to form the newest student chapter in the nation here at Grays Harbor College. The students look to become very active in society affairs and plan to interact at conferences, meetings and other SAF activities throughout the Pacific Northwest.
Yes, the harbor is green again and we look forward to helping produce the next generation of forest technicians and future foresters for our growing nation.
Todd Bates is on the Natural Resources Forest Technology Program faculty of the Grays Harbor College in Aberdeen, Wash., and serves as advisor of the SAF student chapter. He can be reached at 360-538-2517 or firstname.lastname@example.org.