Part of long-term recreation plan
One of the most visible changes to Riverside Avenue in Winthrop is the departure of Methow Trails from a prominent location near the Spring Creek Bridge — a cozy gray building that has been its home since 2012.
The 45-year-old recreational trails organization has recently moved its headquarters from the rented space on Winthrop’s main thoroughfare to the 18-acre Horizon Flats parcel it purchased last year.
”We’re in the early stages of realizing the vision of having all operations, equipment and staff anchored in one facility at Horizon Flats,” said James DeSalvo, executive director for Methow Trails. “We’ve moved the office operations up there, and we’re slowly migrating all the equipment as well.”
DeSalvo described a four- or five-phase process of transferring the Methow Trails resources — both human and equipment — to what he refers to as “an 18-acre park that the public can use to launch trail adventures from.”
“We bought the land, that was phase one,” DeSalvo said. “Now we’re migrating resources for the efficiency of operations. Next is figuring out how to maximize public enjoyment of the space and determining how the property connects to other trails and recreational opportunities.”
The Methow Investment Network (which “connects investors who want to see their money work in a community they love by investing in local business owners who need capital to start up or grow”) was critical to the purchase of the Horizon Flats property, DeSalvo said. “Without that support we couldn’t have purchased this property. Without that network in place, this property would have gone to a developer,” he said.
The property formerly had been an isolated parcel of unincorporated land that was technically in Okanogan County although surrounded by the town, but was annexed to Winthrop in 2020.
DeSalvo said that the Methow Trails board and staff see the new property as a “recreational asset to the valley on part with the trail system, the Wagner Memorial Pool, Loup Loup Ski Bowl, and other community resources.” He and the staff are “excited to work with the community to see what else might fit up here in terms of recreation and amenities.”
“This property can be a hub for recreation in a literal and figurative sense,” DeSalvo said. “It can connect different recreational uses — biking, running, horseback riding, skiing — as well as different user groups. We’ve connected people through trails for 45 years; we just never had a long-term home to welcome people to.”
Methow Trails’ staff now works out of one of several existing buildings on this new site and the trail crew is slowly populating one of the larger sheds with tools, equipment, machinery and signs. Some of the winter warming huts — such as the one parked near Powers Plunge for the past few winters — are stored on site as well.
Last winter Methow Trails began grooming a trail from Horizon Flats to the Spring Creek Ranch Trailhead near the Winthrop Rink; next winter that trail will be formalized with a trailhead, and in subsequent years a kiosk and bathroom facilities will follow.
But the new development with the most public prominence is currently the bridge that Methow Trails staff built recently, under the direction of Trails Manager Jon Albright. Located across Highway 20 from The Virginian and Pardner’s Mini Market, the new bridge provides summer and winter access to the Horizon Flats property. It’s a stout bridge, engineered to provide required clearance for the irrigation ditch it crosses and to handle the load of a Pisten Bully grooming machine.
Methow Trails is currently working with the Town of Winthrop to connect the bridge to the existing Susie Stephens trail, providing contiguous, year-round access between the Horizon Flats property and the Spring Creek Ranch Trailhead, the Spring Creek Bridge, and Winthrop. The connection project will provide a pedestrian-grade approach to the bridge, which currently drops rather steeply. (No, it’s not a bike jump, the Methow Trails crew assures us. It’s just not quite finished.)
The TWin Trail
In addition to undertaking the office move and building bridges, Methow Trails staff has been focused on the vision for the TWin Trail: the Twisp to Winthrop Trail Project. “It’s very much in process,” DeSalvo said. “As we talk with landowners along potential routes between Winthrop, the Horizon Flats property, the Methow Valley School District elementary and secondary schools, and Twisp, we’ve identified 45 owners who have agreed to allow the trail to cross their property. This represents about 4.5 of the 10 miles we’ve identified as potential routes.”
Those 4.5 miles aren’t contiguous, DeSalvo said, but they represent a degree of community endorsement necessary to give the vision momentum “We’re slowly gaining support through constant outreach with landowners,” he said.
Although the office at the new property is occupied and operational, it won’t be fully open for regular office hours until the fall, when Methow Trails begins selling tickets and trail passes to the public. In the meantime, Methow Trails invites the community for a ribbon-cutting ceremony and general welcome to the property on July 14, from 4-7 p.m. “We’d love for people to see what we’re doing and to share our vision and plans,” DeSalvo said. “We’d like to thank the community for helping us secure this place as a permanent home for Methow Trails.”
The old Methow Trails office on Riverside Avenue was quickly filled by Methow Rafting, which offers river-based recreation in rafts, kayaks and tubes. With hot temperatures and accommodating water levels, co-owners Brandon Bertelson and Dylan Marks have been busy helping guests enjoy river adventures in a safe manner.