By Don Nelson

Pedestrians won’t be following hoof prints through the crosswalks at the four-way stop in downtown Winthrop, the town council affirmed at its meeting last week.

The discussion at Wednesday’s meeting was a follow-up to an agenda item two weeks earlier related to a Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) project to repave two miles of state Highway 20 (Riverside Avenue) through Winthrop in the spring of 2017.

As part of that project, WSDOT will revamp the crosswalks and approaches to make them compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). WSDOT has offered to work with the town to make the crosswalk improvements as compatible as possible with Winthrop’s Westernization theme. To that end, WSDOT has offered to stain and stamp the roadway concrete so that the crosswalks blend in naturally with the existing boardwalks.

WSDOT also offered to paint the likeness of horses’ hoof prints in the crosswalks, to create the impression that equine traffic was part of the downtown ambience. There would be no additional cost at first, but council members were told that there would likely be maintenance and upkeep costs in the future that the town would be responsible for. At that meeting, council members decided not to incur that responsibility.

At last week’s meeting, Westernization Architectural Committee (WAC) representative Lynette Westendorf told the council that the WAC would be willing to take on the responsibility for future maintenance of the hoof prints, which would be painted on by use of a template that could be re-used.

Westendorf said that “something that contributes to the Westernization motif is a good thing” and could help boost the town’s tourism economy. “It doesn’t have to be cartoonish,” she said. “It seems like it’s a nice way to give another nod to the fact that Winthrop is a Western theme town.”

She noted that hoof prints painted on Castle Avenue between the Shafer Museum and its annex across the street have been “a huge hit … it fits in with the idea of Westernization is.” She acknowledged that those hoof prints were painted on the street without the town’s knowledge or approval.

At the same time, Westendorf said, while “tourism doesn’t trump everything, this is a theme town that people really enjoy.” Visitors would likely want to take pictures of the hoof prints at the four-way stop, she said.

Safety a concern

That was a problem for several council members, who worried about traffic safety problems if pedestrians were looking down at the ground or stopping to take pictures in the middle of a crosswalk.

Westendorf offered to return in the near future with potential crosswalk designs. “Let us come with a template to see if the design looks like you think it should look,” she said.

Council member Anne Acheson said she was concerned about whether such decorations would affect the town’s Western authenticity. “Is it an authentic Western town or a theme park … it needs to be one or the other,” she said. She said it’s important that the town remain consistent with its own Westernization requirements.

Westendorf said that Winthrop may not be entirely authentic, “but economically it’s working.”

Council member Gaile Bryant-Cannon said she thought the hoof prints idea was “just too cutesy,” while council member Rick Northcott said “I don’t see it as that big a deal” and that the would be OK with or without hoof prints. “There are a lot of things that are cutesy in town,” Northcott noted.

Council member Mike Strulic said “I agree with Gaile … I think it’s cheesy … It’s a Jellystone kind of thing.”

“It’s probably not the best place to put artwork,” Strulic said, because children would likely be distracted. “It’s scary enough out there [in the intersection] as it is.”

Strulic said he was concerned about chipping away at Winthrop’s authenticity both as a tourism destination and a community. “It’s not a theme town,” he said. “It’s a working town that has a Western theme.”

Mayor Sue Langdalen pointed out that WSDOT needs a decision and that “we can always add horseshoes later.” The council consensus was to forego hoof prints for now.

Westendorf said she wasn’t disappointed in the council’s decision. “We have issues that are a lot more important to us,” she said, including a revamp of the Westernization code that is almost ready for council consideration.

In other business, the council member Jessica Sheehan said she will be moving out of the valley in April and will resign her council seat. The town will soon begin seeking applicants to fill the seat.

The council also agreed to consider a request from Doug Mohre, co-owner of Sheri’s Sweet Shoppe, to purchase fireworks for the annual Christmas at the End of the Road celebration through the town’s account, rather than through the Winthrop Chamber of Commerce account. The change could save several thousand dollars in shipping costs because municipalities aren’t charged for shipping, Langdalen said. Chamber of Commerce president David Gottula said the chamber has no objection.