Establishing a new children’s museum in the Tri-Cities is going to take careful planning, perseverance and a ton of community support.
It also will take someone committed to making the dream a reality. Fortunately, it looks like Lara Hastings has that covered.
The daughter of retired U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Pasco, is spearheading the effort to bring an educational facility that would emphasize science, technology, engineering, math and, of course, play to children in the Mid-Columbia.
After visiting other children’s museums around the Northwest with her two sons, Hastings wished the Tri-Cities had something that offered a similar experience.
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She said she was encouraged by her husband, Colin, executive director of the Pasco Chamber of Commerce, who told her she could either complain about it or do something. So about a year ago she got to work.
Already, she has formed the group Hands In for Hands On Tri-Cities — or HiHo Tri-Cities — and is board president. The organization became official in the spring after registering as a nonprofit and partnering with the Three Rivers Community Foundation.
Lara Hastings has recruited board members and, most exciting of all, has managed to gather financial partners so the group can bring a science event to the Tri-Cities.
Columbia Basin College will play host to A View From Space, an exhibit from the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, at its planetarium this summer. The cost for the OMSI display is $17,000, with support offered already by Bruce Heating & AC, McCurley Subaru, CBC and the Mid-Columbia Libraries. More donations are still needed, but at least Hastings has the event started.
This is a toe-in-the-water attempt to gauge interest in a children’s museum for the community.
Hastings called the summer exhibit a “proof of concept” that will help determine the future of the effort. If the public responds with enthusiasm, that could be the green-light to proceed and drum up more support for the idea.
At one time, the Tri-Cities had the Three Rivers Children’s Museum, which served the region for about 20 years. It struggled to find a permanent home, however. It started at Columbia Center mall, spent several years at Richland’s Community Center before the building was demolished, and then found space at Broadmore Square in 2004. A forced move within the Broadmore complex in 2011 proved too expensive, and the organization could not recover financially.
At the time it closed, however, officials said the museum saw around 10,000 visitors a year.
Many families were sad to see it go. It was not as elaborate as some children’s museums around the state, but it was still a place where children could play and learn.
Hastings’ group would like to shoot for something more elaborate, similar to the Pacific Science Center in Seattle. She also appears willing to take her time to make sure the project is done right.
“We don’t want to move too fast too soon and not be able to offer quality,” she said.
That’s a wise approach. This is an exciting endeavor and Hastings appears to be off to a solid start. We hope her excitement for the project is contagious, and that she gets the support needed to pull it off.