One of Federal Way's top cultural and tourist attractions is courting proposals for new management.
The Pacific Rim Bonsai Collection opened 24 years ago on the Weyerhaeuser Campus. It attracts nearly 30,000 annual visitors from all over the country and world.
However, Weyerhaeuser thinks the bonsai collection — which features 60 miniature potted trees shaped by artists — could be run better by someone else.
The collection is a department of the timber company, but will transition to an independent entity with a non-profit status.
"Other organizations are designed to promote and market and really highlight a collection like that in a way that we're not," said Kristen Sawin, director of government and community affairs. She noted that the collection costs Weyerhaeuser hundreds of thousands of dollars to maintain. "We really value the entity as a whole and we want to see it promoted in a way that honors that."
Weyerhaeuser has sent requests for proposals to determine where to donate the collection. Responses are due this month, and the timber company will also consider an endowment for further financial support, Sawin said.
The company has reached out to The Greater Tacoma Community Foundation, which sees a lot of untapped potential for growth at the collection, according to communications director Elyse Rowe. The foundation has promised to oversee the bonsai collection at its current location in Federal Way.
"It's such a treasure for the South Sound region," Rowe told The Mirror. "We would want to keep it there with permission from Weyerhaeuser."
Another suitor for the project is the Washington Park Arboretum, which could potentially move the collection to Seattle if chosen by Weyerhaeuser.
David De Groot, who has worked as the collection's curator since day one, said Federal Way is home to one of the best bonsai gardens in the nation. The visitor book is signed every year by travelers from 49 states and 30 to 35 foreign countries, he said. The collection's well-marked location off I-5 is another reason why he thinks people stop by to appreciate this ancient Japanese art form.
"When I go home at the end of the day, I do bonsai. It's my hobby," said De Groot, who still gets a kick out of seeing delighted visitors. "There aren't too many jobs where you get 100 percent positive feedback."
Following a year-long closure due to economic reasons, the Pacific Rim Bonsai Collection re-opened to the public in the summer of 2010. The collection is open weekly Tuesdays through Sundays (closed Mondays) year-round on the Weyerhaeuser campus, 2525 S. 336th St., Federal Way. Operating hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free.
Learn more at http://www.weyerhaeuser.com/Company/Bonsai.