The Winthrop Town Council has adopted a “resolution of intent” that it hopes will bolster citizen volunteers’ efforts to help advance the RiverWalk project.
The council took action at its meeting last week. While the town has been involved in planning and developing a recreational path along the banks of the Chewuch and Methow rivers for more than 20 years, the resolution is seen as a means of reasserting Winthrop’s commitment to the RiverWalk project. Completion of the RiverWalk is called for in the town’s comprehensive plan.
Recently an informal group of volunteers was formed to jumpstart progress on the RiverWalk by engaging property owners who would be affected by the project. At an earlier council meeting, two members of that group — Brooke Bourn and Rita Kenny — told the council that they are confident their personal efforts to engage with affected property owners on the RiverWalk route can help the town successfully complete it. Bourn and Kenny said they had been talking with individual property owners and received generally positive feedback, but not full commitments.
RiverWalk is intended to extend a pedestrian walkway from the Sa Teekh Wa bridge downstream to the Spring Creek Bridge, including an underpass beneath the north end of the Chewuch River Bridge at the four-way stop. Much of the trail would be on the back side of commercial buildings that front on Riverside Avenue.
In recent years, the main roadblock to completing the trail has been dealing with concerns raised by the owners of Riverside Avenue property whose parcels would be crossed by the path. Those concerns range from whether the backs of their buildings would have to meet the town’s Westernization requirements, to loss of parking to ongoing maintenance to questioning the need for such a path. Despite its ongoing efforts the town has been unable to get easement agreements from all the affected property owners.
At last week’s council meeting, Town Planner Rocklynn Culp said that a clear statement of intent from the town may make landowners more comfortable.
Kenny said the volunteer group plans a meeting in the near future to which all affected properties owner will invited to discuss the RiverWalk project. She said it would be valuable to take the town’s “good faith commitment” to that meeting.
The resolution acknowledges that the project will require “active coordination” and easements from affected property owners, and that “certain assurances in writing are necessary to define the town’s intent.”
The resolution also states that the town intends to “locate, design, fund and construct” the RiverWalk trail. Phase 1 is funded and can be constructed in 2023 if easements are secured, the resolution says. Funding is expected to come from state and federal sources.
The resolution also pledges clear and consistent communication with affected property owners.
Phase I of the project, which includes the underpass, required numerous local, state and federal regulatory permits, and is funded by a state Recreation and Conservation Office (RCO) grant plus federal transportation monies. Phase II would be from the kiosk behind the Farmer’s Exchange Building to Spring Creek Bridge. Phase III would extend upriver on the Chewuch River from the back of the Emporium to Sa Teekh Wah bridge.
In other business, the council:
- agreed to expedite a plan to install electric vehicle charging stations at the Winthrop public library, after hearing a presentation on charging stations by town intern Emily Salcedo. Earlier, the council instructed staff to prepare a request for proposals to install the two stations — for which the infrastructure was provided as part of the library’s construction — to see if any local businesses are interested in providing the stations before signing a contract with an out-of-town firm that is prepared to provide the service.
The California-based for-profit company Rivian LLC had offered to provide the stations at no charge to the town. At last week’s meeting, council members said the stations need to be installed sooner rather than later, and Rivian may be the best option. Culp and Public Works Director Jeff Sarvis were asked to return to a future meeting with a best-options proposal.
- adopted changes to the town’s salary table to enable the hiring of a part-time janitor to service the new library, and to hire a part-time building inspector. Sarvis recommended that the town hire Ken Duncan, an employee of the consulting firm SCJ Alliance who has for the past 20 years been providing inspection services.
The town no longer has a contract with SCJ. Because of his familiarity with Winthrop, Sarvis recommended that Duncan be hired by the town to continue its building inspection work, at a projected cost of about $8,400 a year.