RIDGEFIELD — Dignitaries from Clark College and Ridgefield ceremoniously broke ground on the community college’s new Boschma Farms campus Wednesday afternoon.
The new 61,000-square-foot facility, which is expected to be open by the spring of 2024, will provide education in emerging industries such as manufacturing in renewable energy and environmental science.
“Although we may be standing in a humble farm field,” said Clark College President Karin Edwards, “once again we acknowledged the many pathways to success this campus and its technology will offer Southwest Washington, and particularly the north county.”
Edwards and other speakers said the plan to open this new campus has been a longtime goal to unite Clark College with the north county and Ridgefield in particular, which features one of the fastest-growing populations and school districts in Washington.
Clark College received an estimated $53.2 million from the Washington Legislature’s 2021-2023 capital projects budget to build the new campus, along with another $1.5 million in federal earmarks to aid in the development of the school’s Advanced Manufacturing Center.
The Advanced Manufacturing Center, officials said, will serve as the core building on the new campus and provide a flexible space for community events and hands-on learning in robotics, manufacturing and more.
Edwards also took time to recognize Clark’s decades-old partnership with the Cowlitz Indian Tribe and express condolences for the loss of Tribal Chair David Barnett, who died last weekend.
“I had promised I would carry on (David’s) vision,” said Patty Kinswa-Gaiser, who stepped into the role of tribal chair following Barnett’s passing. “This is a very important moment here today for the future of education.”
For Lisa Gibert, the CEO of the Clark College Foundation who is stepping down this summer, this project is more than just a stop in the road for the school, rather it’s perhaps the perfect way to conclude her 24-year career at the helm of the nonprofit.
“I didn’t want to leave. I just felt we needed new leadership,” Gibert said. “But it was this project that I saw as unfinished business. This was not the easiest project we’ve put together, but it’s certainly been among the greatest joys of my career.”
In 2008, Clark planned to treat the growth of its service district, particularly in the northern region, just as the area’s growth surge was beginning. As officials spent years searching for a location suitable for a potential satellite campus, Gibert became acquainted with Hank and Bernice Boschma, owners of the dairy farm-turned college campus in Ridgefield.
Hank Boschma, who died in 2017, came to the United States from the Netherlands as a milker in 1955 and later married Bernice. After a few years, they purchased the property and began raising their family on the farm. As the two grew old, they started searching for a way for the land to live on and serve a greater purpose.
“For me, this is nice,” said Bernice Boschma, who teared up upon hearing the description of the new campus sign that would bear her family’s name. “But for my next generation, this is truly great.”