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News / Clark County News

Columbia Play Project begins planning for children’s museum; cost estimated from $10M to $40M

Community input to be first step in planning process; inaugural fundraising luncheon set at Clark College

By Chrissy Booker, Columbian staff writer
Published: May 7, 2024, 6:09am

Columbia Play Project will launch the first phase of planning for a children’s museum in Clark County this summer.

The nonprofit has aspired to build a children’s museum in Clark County since the organization formed in 2020, Executive Director Jeanne Bennett said. Starting in July, the nonprofit will begin the community engagement process to elicit concerns, hopes and dreams for the space. Columbia Play Project will collect feedback through online surveys and events.

Bennett said feedback from the community is a foundational first step in the planning process.

“We don’t want to have a children’s museum 10 years from now where everyone says, ‘Well, this thing doesn’t really fit the bill,’ ” Bennett said. “We’re getting that feedback upfront and then using it from the very beginning to create a space that is warm, welcoming and accessible for a variety of people.”

If You Go

What: Columbia Play Project’s Spring into Play Luncheon

When: 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Thursday

Where: Clark College, 1933 Fort Vancouver Way, Vancouver

Cost: $75 per person


Bennett said the children’s museum will cost between $10 million and $30 million in a remodeled, existing space. Building something from scratch would be closer to $40 million. Bennett said her hope would be to see a full-scale museum ready sometime in 2027.

In April 2023, Sen. Annette Cleveland, D-Vancouver, secured $515,000 from the state to kick start the project. The money will pay for public engagement, as well as business and strategic planning and design, Bennett said.

As planning for a large-scale museum begins, Columbia Play Project will continue to operate its mobile children’s museum, a van that travels around the county to provide educational and exploratory play experiences.

The organization also developed at-home play kits designed for kids ages 3-7 that focus on animal habitats and ecosystems.

As an organization, Columbian Play Project is dedicated to finding more ways to provide accessible play to children and families across Clark County, Bennett said.

Last winter, the organization partnered with Fourth Plain Forward to host free, interactive play sessions at Fourth Plain Community Commons. Bennett said she hopes the organization can host more sessions like those in the future.

“The cognitive and emotional component is important when children are playing and they’re given the free space to just play with materials, either in groups or by themselves. Their brains are actually growing the synapses that create the architecture for all of their future learning,” Bennett said.

On Thursday, Columbia Play Project will host its inaugural fundraising luncheon at Clark College, featuring keynote speaker Jana Mohr Lone of the University of Washington. For more information or to purchase tickets to the luncheon, visit www.columbiaplayproject.org.

Community Funded Journalism logo

This story was made possible by Community Funded Journalism, a project from The Columbian and the Local Media Foundation. Top donors include the Ed and Dollie Lynch Fund, Patricia, David and Jacob Nierenberg, Connie and Lee Kearney, Steve and Jan Oliva, The Cowlitz Tribal Foundation and the Mason E. Nolan Charitable Fund. The Columbian controls all content. For more information, visit columbian.com/cfj.