Conceptual Plan for Riverfront Park to be Revealed to WSCC on March 7

As this artists rendering suggests the proposed picnic and play area at the White Salmon Bridge Park would not have your typical playground structures, but more natural ones like large boulders and repurposed fallen trees.

The Community Partners of Bingen-White Salmon will be presenting a conceptual plan for a riverfront park to the White Salmon City Council on March 7.

The concept answers a number of potential questions, such as: where, how much, what will it offer, and what are some potential development issues?

The concept for the park was developed in a workshop in spring 2017, but the idea of having a waterfront park has been tossed around for about 10 years. The design workshop was sponsored by the City of White Salmon and the National Park Service’s Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program (RTCA). Representatives from the cities of Bingen and White Salmon, Klickitat County, and local businesses as well as the Mt. Adams Chamber of Commerce, Yakama Nation, NorthShore Medical Group, Underwood Conservation District, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and, of course, the Community Partners were involved in the process.

Where will the park be located? Due to a private landowner defaulting on taxes several years ago, Klickitat County acquired a 12-acre plot of land that falls within White Salmon’s city limits beginning just west of the Hood River-White Salmon Bridge and stretching east past BridgeMart.

The property hasn’t been developed yet due in part to its difficult access. The Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) railroad separates the northern portion of the property from State Route 14. About seven of the 12 acres are under the Columbia River, with the rest lying in a floodplain and creating environmental constraints.

The county, however, has given the OK to have the land developed into a park if legal access can be obtained. The proposed entrance to the park would be on the southeast corner of the chamber office/-visitor center and Park & Ride.

Like any major city planning project, there are some constraints. The two major issues are the potential replacement of the Hood River-White Salmon Bridge and the creation of an access road.

As it stands right now, the bridge divides the park property in half. If the replacement bridge is moved slightly to the west, as has been suggested, this may improve the possibilities for the park.

Overall, the biggest challenge will be the development of an access road between SR-14 and the park, which will require negotiations for with BNSF and the Columbia Regional Inter-Tribal Fisheries Commission (CRITFC) for rights-of-way.

How much will the park cost? The concept proposes that the City of White Salmon pursue fundraising, donations, and grants to raise money for the project. However, the maintenance and management of the park would be a public responsibility.

The exception would be the care of natural elements of the park, which would be left up to trained environmental organizations coordinated by the city.

According to the concept, the most expensive attribute to the park will be the required Ameri-cans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessible ramp or bridge, which could cost $500,000 or more.

This cost could be mitigated by allowing the crews that would build the ADA bridge/ramp over the railway to use the access point at the tribal in-lieu site during construction. The City of White Salmon would again have to negotiate with the CRITFC.

Upon completion, the park would offer a full range of activities.

According to the concept, many of the stakeholders noted that the park would be a good put-in/take-out area for paddleboarders, kayakers, and canoers. It was also noted that the area provides good resources for those who would like to fish from the banks or go wading/swimming.

The park could also operate as an outdoor classroom for local schools by providing an opportunity for kids to study the natural resources and wildlife of the northwest as well as learn the histories of the area. This would include a “natural” play area near the water, kids can climb and play on boulders and repurposed fallen trees.

Dogs would be allowed in the park if they are on a leash and their owners clean up after them. A clean bag dispensary will be located at the south end of the park by the ADA /pedestrian bridge along with trash cans.

There would also be natural and ADA accessible trails at the park. Some of the trails are already in existence in the area but would need to be formalized.

To get the project underway and “shovel ready” as the concept states, the City of White Salmon and the Community Partners would need to, “secure a cost estimate and preliminary ADA/pedestrian bridge engineering. Work with the county to develop an agreement for management and maintenance of the land and get an easement for the pedestrian bridge from BNSF. Also obtaining all the necessary permits from the state to move forward. Once all four steps are completed this project will become much easier to fund.”

The most likely funding resources for this project will come from Washington’s Recreation and Conservation Office, a state agency that manages grant programs to create outdoor recreation opportunities. Some of the funding can also come from non-profit organizations, not only can they aid in the fundraising aspect, but they can provide volunteers for the park which can reduce the overall cost to the city.

A follow-up article with comments from the White Salmon City Council will appear in The Enterprise after the March 7 meeting.

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