In the late 1990s, the city of Grover Beach built a new fire station leaving an empty building on Ramona Avenue, which had housed the city offices and council chambers, as well as the fire station. Well known for their philanthropy and community involvement throughout the South County area, Clifford and Mary-Lee Clark promoted the idea of forming a non-profit corporation that would buy the old fire station building and develop a youth facility for the Central Coast.
In November 1999, Mr. Clark, as the incorporator, filed 501 (c) (3) papers with the California Secretary of State and appointed officers and members to the Board of Directors, thus creating The South County Family Educational and Cultural Center. As the name implies, the non-profit was created to ensure educational and cultural oriented facilities and programs targeted for youth, primarily in the south part of San Luis Obispo County.
In June 2000, the Clarks enabled the corporation to purchase the empty Fire House from the Grover Beach City Council, through a personal loan of $180,000. In addition, the Clarks deeded two nearby parcels of property they owned to the corporation. One parcel would be dedicated for a community library and History3 the second for a youth arts/crafts center. These two properties are currently being rented until such time the corporation is ready to develop them.
During the next several months following the Fire House purchase, the Board of Directors developed a Mission Statement and goals. The Board proceeded to name the facility The Central Coast Exploration Station (Exploration Station), which was destined to become a facility where local families and visitors could enjoy revolving science exhibits, interactive displays, and weekly programs and activities designed to meet the educational and cultural needs of youth of all ages.
Over the course of the year, a Founding Membership drive raised nearly $50,000, a part time Executive Director position was created, a volunteer program was developed, and the facility was painted and repaired for occupancy. In the spring of 2001, educational programs were introduced targeting youth between the ages of 9 to 13 during after school hours and vacations. To date, over 2,000 young people have attended the programs taught by volunteers in subject areas that are not generally found in school curricula.
In the early part of 2002, the City of Grover Beach and the Exploration Station entered into a partnership to create a specific plan that would guide future development of the three properties owned by The Exploration Station, and the adjacent Ramona Garden Park owned by the City. Guided by public workshops and a council appointed advisory committee, the outcome produced a comprehensive plan for a future civic complex offering educational, cultural, and recreational opportunities for community families, visitors, and tourists.
We are proud of what we have accomplished for our community and have great expectations of our new Children’s Science Center and upcoming expansion project. Please visit us to see our progress and take advantage of our many offerings.