The very first interpretive programs for Ocean Shores began in 1977 under the auspices of Sea Grant as “Ocean Adventures” in the present location of the current Center. The building had been a land sales office of the Ocean Shores Development Company, built in 1962. It’s apparent next use was as a dental or medical office. The City of Ocean Shores acquired the land and building in 1974.
In 1984, the State Legislature mandated the Washington State Parks Commission to operate the Interpretive Center as an economic development factor for Grays Harbor County. This was as a result of the collapse of the clam fishery. Exhibits from state agencies including State Parks and State Fish & Wildlife, as well as several federal agencies, were made available for visitors. That interpretive center effort fell victim to the 1991-92 State Legislature, which mandated state agency budget cuts.
Volunteers stepped forward to run the Center from 1993-96. This proved to be a daunting task for the well-intentioned volunteers. They could not keep up with exhibit maintenance and the amount of volunteer time involved. As a result, in 1997 the City Council appointed a Citizen’s Advisory Committee to operate the Center, naming it the Ocean Shores Interpretive Center.
In 1999, the Interpretive Center Association was organized as a 501(c)(3) non-profit “friends” group to support operation of the Center. The Association created the Center bookstore, assisted with maintenance, and worked on exhibits. They raised funds for several major projects including the exhibit hall addition and the addition that houses the habitat displays and education room.
The City operated the Center with part-time staff until December 31, 2011. Despite what was typically a part-time seasonal schedule, yearly visitor numbers gradually increased. But again it came into danger of closing due to City fiscal restraints during the economic recession that deeply affected the local economy.
The Interpretive Center Association stepped forward, signed a lease with the City, and agreed to assume responsibility for operating the Center as a non-profit business, effective January 1, 2012. Energetically moving forward, the non-profit group defined a broader mission statement, changing the name to the Coastal Interpretive Center to better reflect that mission. The Center continues to grow, to expand its exhibits and learning experiences, and provide a major attraction for visitors and local residents alike.