By Sally Ranzau
We have an untapped asset in the Chewuch River which runs behind our downtown businesses on Riverside Avenue.
It is a beautiful and sometimes tumultuous waterway which is rarely viewed. If you walk behind these buildings today, trespassing on private property, you will see trash cans, cars — private parking for business owners — cardboard boxes and one log picnic kiosk with tables and a couple interpretive signs.
Fifty years ago, in 1972 the North Cascades Scenic Highway opened allowing travelers from northwestern Washington access to the Methow Valley. With this possibility, the business/property owners worked with the town to create the Westernization theme. Westernization has served its original purpose in giving travelers a reason to stop. It has served our businesses and community well.
I am not suggesting we change Westernization … but maybe it is time to augment and refresh the idea.
The RiverWalk Project has been in the works for almost 20 years. Riverwalk parks have been very successful in Spokane, Wenatchee, Chelan and Leavenworth, to name a few. Riverwalk parks tap into the beauty behind the closed door. Second access for stores, front and rear. Not taking away from our unique boardwalk sidewalk, but enhancing options for tourism and locals.
We are currently working with a group of citizens, who are trying to revitalize and explore if RiverWalk is a viable idea for the businesses of Winthrop in today’s economy.
This cannot be totally a town project. As a municipality, Winthrop is able to apply for grant opportunities that private citizens cannot, to help fund the project. But RiverWalk will not work without commitment and easements from property owners and businesses with Chewuch River frontage.
My hope is to spur constructive conversations, for future Town Council agendas, and not let this RiverWalk project die.
Sally Ranzau is the mayor of Winthrop.