Ridgefield library opens to large crowd

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A project to give Ridgefield’s library a bigger home to fit the growing city came to completion on July 9 as the new Ridgefield Community Library opened its doors to the public for the first time.

Coinciding with Ridgefield’s Main Street Day, the grand opening of the roughly 7,900-square-foot facility brought hundreds to the ceremony, and eventually into the new building.

“This is an amazing turnout,” said State Rep. Brandon Vick, R-Vancouver, adding Friday’s event was the biggest ribbon-cutting event he has attended as a legislator in nine years.

Vick, alongside State Sen. Lynda Wilson, also a Vancouver Republican, were among dignitaries present at the grand opening.

Lawmakers secured some of the last funds for the roughly $3.6 million project when $500,000 was allocated in the state capital projects budget in 2020. Vick added the rest of the fundraising and general support from the city “made (legislators’) job a lot easier” as they worked to get the facility built.

“Ridgefield is good at this,” Vick remarked.

A fact sheet from the Fort Vancouver Regional Library District (FVRL), which oversees the operations and funds of the Ridgefield library as well as ones in Battle Ground and Woodland, showed the project received $1 million in anonymous matching funds. The district itself covered more than $1.5 million of the cost, and $250,000 came from the Firstenberg Foundation.

Friends of the Ridgefield Community Library also raised $300,000 for the project, which broke ground in August 2020. Friends of the Ridgefield Community Library member Tevis Laspa listed a plethora of different fundraisers the group undertook to get the facility built, including book sales, food and drink sales, a variety of classes, bunco and golf tournaments, tea parties, and a number of other events and activities.

Another Friends member, Kathy Winters, made fundraising pushes for years, beginning with an “80 for 80” campaign to raise $80,000 for her 80th birthday, which turned out to raise more than $100,000.

“It’s everything I had hoped for,” Winters said while inside the building as it filled with the first members of the public.

Mayor Don Stose said he’s been asked how Ridgefield is able to undertake so many projects.

“For me, (answering) that is easy: It’s all about partnerships,” Stose said. “That’s one of the reasons why this library project came together the way that it did.”

The new facility is an overhaul of the old Ridgefield Community Center, where the original 2,300-square-foot facility was housed. In 2018, the community center board offered the entire building to FVRL, allowing for the expansion.

Apart from sections focused on children, adults and teens, the library includes a technology area, meeting room and a community room that can be used after hours. The community room features a “hearing loop” which allows direct transmission of sound to hearing aids.

Ridgefield Community Library Branch Manager Sean McGill was delighted with the space. Having worked in the old facility for years, McGill said the new space is remarkable.

“I feel like a forest giant (going through the new building.) It feels spacious to me,” McGill said.

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