Trail below Hwy. 20 bridge will be built next spring
The intersection of Highway 20 and White Avenue in Winthrop can be treacherous enough for vehicle traffic — let alone pedestrians trying to reach Homestream Park on the banks of the Methow River.
The Town of Winthrop and Methow Trails are teaming up on a solution that will provide safe access between the park and the Susie Stephens Trail, Little Star Montessori School, the Winthrop Rink and the new public library: a pedestrian underpass beneath the Methow River bridge.
The issue was raised at last week’s Town Council meeting by way of a petition from Little Star, presented by Associate Director Brad Halm and signed by more than 70 people, asking for a crosswalk that would help students and other users cross the busy highway. The petition was also forwarded to Homestream Park owners Phil and Cathy Davis.
Mayor Sally Ranzau said at the council meeting that a plan has been in the works for a pedestrian underpass because the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT), which has jurisdiction over Highway 20, would likely not approve a crosswalk at the intersection.
“It’s just a bad place for a crosswalk,” the mayor said.
As an alternative, Ranzau said Methow Trails has agreed to construct the pedestrian underpass next spring. Erika Kercher Halm, outreach and access manager for Methow Trails, confirmed that construction of the underpass is slated to take place in the spring.
WSDOT has always been concerned about access to the privately owned park, Town Planner Rocklynn Culp said in an interview this week, because of the configuration of the intersection and the amount of vehicle traffic passing through it. It took some time for WSDOT to review and approve plans for the underpass, she said.
Culp said one issue is that the Methow River Lodge and Cabins complex, over which a trail would pass, is privately owned. The owners of the motel have said they would allow a connection from the Susie Stephens trail at the ice rink across their property to the bridge underpass, Culp said.
Culp noted that there is a limited amount of disabled parking available at Homestream Park, but no general parking. Homestream visitors could potentially park at the Town Trailhead adjacent to the rink when an underpass is available.
Culp said the trail will be an at-grade footpath that does not affect the bridge. She said the Davises “have been super cooperative” in the planning effort for an underpass.
In other business at last week’s meeting:
• The council gave final approval of the “long plat” for the Cascade Meadows housing project, which will include 15 lots on about 8 acres adjacent to the Cascade Condominiums. The project is being developed by Jim and Gaye Pigott. The approval means that all the conditions required by town planning and public works departments for development of the site — such as road improvements and utilities hookups — have been met. Preliminary approval of the plat was in 2017.
Lot sizes range from 10,000 square feet to 29,292 square feet. Duplexes could be constructed under the Tourist Residential zoning that applies to the site.
• The council heard no public comment at a hearing on the proposed 2021 town budget. The proposal calls for a total expenditure budget of $4,372,875, which includes $2,008,440 in “current” expenses, which cover day-to-day operations.
The budget includes funds for major projects such as continued design and construction of the Riverwalk trail, development of the Meadowlark Natural Area at the northeast corner of town and more improvements to the Susie Stephens Trail, as well as funding for a second deputy marshal. The town currently has two law enforcement officers, Marshal Doug Johnson and deputy Ken Bajema, but has not been able to fill the third position.
About 15% of the local taxes collected support current expenses, while about 84% support street improvements.
• The council approved a special event permit application to stage the annual snowshoe softball tournament at the town ball field in February, after receiving assurance from organizer Mike Clayton that appropriate coronavirus protocols will be observed by players and spectators.
At an earlier meeting, council members raised concerns about the event, scheduled for Feb. 13-14, 2021, because the eight teams involved would be traveling to Winthrop from around the area. The softball tournament is sponsored by the Winthrop Chamber of Commerce.
Clayton sent a letter to the mayor and council stating that all the visiting teams have agreed to follow COVID protocols. The letter referenced guidelines in use at the Winthrop Rink.
Ranzau told Clayton that “you have handled it really well … I see no reason we would have to cancel it.”
That said, the council asked that the permit be revisited at its Feb. 3 meeting in case conditions change by then.