Thursday, May 29, 2014

Cleaning Up: New life for old psychiatric hospital?

By Seth Preston, communications manager, Toxics Cleanup Program

Opening day in 1912 at Northern State Hospital. 
The Northern State Hospital psychiatric hospital treated thousands of patients at a sprawling, 225-acre site on the eastern edge of Sedro-Woolley in Skagit County for more than 60 years.

The hospital closed in 1973. Some buildings sit unused and in need of repair. Other structures house Job Corps, in-patient substance abuse programs and other activities. It's on the National Register of Historic Places.

Now, local governments are teaming up to explore the idea of buying the hospital campus. They're using a grant from Ecology's Toxics Cleanup Program to help put together a plan for cleaning up and using the site.

Community meeting set

On June 5, officials from the Port of Skagit County, the county and the city of Sedro-Woolley will get together with community members to talk about how the land and current structures could be used for community and economic development.

"The facility has unique potential to serve a range of uses that could support jobs, tax revenues, and increased public access," according to the port's website.

The main building shown in the 1920s.
The three governments received a $200,000 integrated planning grant from the Toxics Cleanup Program to look at potential environmental issues at the property and at how the property could be used. Ecology provides the grants (typically $100,000 to $200,000) to local governments so they can explore environmental issues and redevelopment at properties they own or may buy. The grant funds come from a voter-approved tax on hazardous substances.

Looking ahead

The state Department of Enterprise Services manages the hospital grounds, now called the North Cascades Gateway Center. Skagit County later acquired the former agricultural portion of the property for recreational use.

Over the years, several proposals have been floated for the hospital, like using the site for various businesses and recreational opportunities. At one point, the county planned to move the Skagit County Fair there from its Mount Vernon location.

The June 5 meeting is scheduled from 5 to 7 p.m. at the RSN Building on the Northern State Hospital campus.

Top photo courtesy of Skagit River Journal. Bottom photo courtesy of Brett Sandstrom.

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