Sa Teekh Wa Park in Winthrop may soon change hands.
Perhaps surprisingly to many residents, the park actually belongs to Okanogan County. Now the county is proposing to turn the 12-acre site over to the Town of Winthrop.
Other than the transfer of ownership, if it occurs, not much else would be expected to change, judging by a Winthrop Town Council discussion of the proposal at its meeting last week. Council members pretty much like the park the way it is: minimally developed.
Sa Teekh Wa Park, a quiet refuge along the Chewuch River adjacent to the lower level of the North Village housing development, includes a 2-mile path with interpretive signs commemorating the Methow’s first inhabitants, native plants and animals, and the Endangered Species Act’s role in the restoration of salmon to area rivers and streams. For more information, visit www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/sa-teekh-wa-trail.
In a memo to the council, Town Planner Rocklynn Culp reviewed the park’s history. She wrote that John and Michelle Larsen donated the property “with the intent that it remain open space in honor of the native Methow people.” She said the Larsens worked with local planner John Hayes on the donation, which passed the Methow Institute Foundation before the county took ownership.
The county hasn’t invested much effort in developing or maintaining the park, which is within the town’s boundaries, Culp wrote. She said Hayes has retained an interest in Sa Teekh Wa and has invested thousands of dollars for the trail and an irrigation system. The Methow Salmon Recovery Foundation placed the interpretive signs.
In good shape
Culp said Hayes has asked the town to take ownership of Sa Teekh Wa. Culp said she explored the site with Public Works Director Jeff Sarvis. They found the park in generally good condition, she wrote, and a recent Firewise project will minimize the risk of wildfire spreading. The irrigation system is not currently functional and may not be necessary, Culp wrote, particularly as native vegetation doesn’t usually require irrigation.
Culp said she approached the North Village Home Owners Association about a partnership for maintenance of the park, and found the conversation “very encouraging.”
Culp said the park would be a “natural fit” for the town, as long as it’s feasible to assume the costs of maintenance. While the town earlier assumed ownership of Confluence Park on Riverside Avenue after it was developed with private funds, the council later decided not to take on ownership of Homestream Park on the Methow River (also privately developed) because of concerns about being able to maintain it.
“Ultimately I think it’s a good idea” to take over Sa Teekh Wa Park, Culp told the council at last week’s meeting. “I think it will be low-maintenance for the town.”
“My plan would be to not do much and leave it as natural as possible,” Sarvis told the council. He said didn’t anticipate Sa Teekh Wa being a financial burden.
Council members said they supported exploring the possibility, and possible consequences, of taking over the park’s ownership.
Councilmember Ben Nelson said it’s important for the town to take over the park so it can be responsible and responsive if necessary.
Culp will come back to the council at a later date with more information.