By Marcy Stamper
A series of recent developments has brought a plan – in the works for almost a decade – to reconfigure trailhead parking and provide more accommodations for businesses, residents and tourists in the Mazama core closer to reality.
The latest pieces in the chain of public and private land transfers and zoning changes came a few weeks ago when the Okanogan County commissioners signed off on a land swap. Another key piece is a $105,000 grant awarded to Methow Trails to create a larger landscaped parking lot for the Mazama trailhead.
The trails association was turned down for the grant from the state Recreation and Conservation Office (RCO) two years ago, but additional federal funding recently became available, allowing RCO to award the grant after all, said James DeSalvo, Methow Trails’ executive director.
Enlarging the parking lot and moving it further back from Goat Creek Road is just one component of the revamped Mazama core. The overall plan, developed with input from the public and the Mazama Advisory Committee, moves some structures and provides for three new commercial buildings with residential or tourist accommodations on the second floor. John Hayes, a planner with the Technical Assistance Group, helped with on-the-ground configurations and negotiations.
“Basically, we’re kind of making a town. We’ve had the opportunity and time to think about this and identify a vision,” said Jim Gregg, who serves on the Mazama committee.
The county commissioners had to determine that swapping about 1-1/2 acres of county land, primarily a forested parcel just east of the community center, for 3-1/3 acres along Goat Creek Road is in the public interest and that the county will get property of equal or greater value. Their decision must still be approved by an Okanogan County Superior Court judge and the RCO board, since the county’s original parcel was purchased – for parking – in 1998 with RCO money, even though it was never actually used as a parking lot.
Parking and other amenities
The revamped parking lot will have 133 parking spots, three times the current capacity, said DeSalvo. It will include two ways in and out, reducing congestion on Goat Creek Road, and will be shielded from neighboring residential areas and the road by berms and native plantings.
The parking lot is the first phase of trail improvements. If money becomes available, the second phase would include new restrooms (with flush toilets), a picnic area, and a hut for waxing skis, which would be situated on the far side of the parking lot, further from Goat Creek Road.
Phase 1 may also include a terrain park with dirt trails, boardwalks and hills for mountain bikes that could be used for ski instruction in the winter, said DeSalvo. Outdoor retailer REI has donated $5,000 toward that project. The total cost would be $50,000, much of it provided by the county to match an RCO grant.
If the other approvals are received this spring, Methow Trails would probably start construction this year, with the intention of finishing before winter.
The county commissioners are taking public comment on the proposed land swap. People can comment in advance to email@example.com or attend the public hearing on May 2 at 4 p.m. in the commissioners’ hearing room in Okanogan.