Winthrop’s RiverWalk recreational trail project took a significant step forward last week when the Town Council approved an easement agreement with property owners Doug and Sheri Mohre.
The Mohres formerly operated Sheri’s Sweet Shoppe, at the four-way stop in downtown Winthrop, and still own the property. The popular business has frontage along the Chewuch River.
The easement agreement is technically with Methow Trails, which has partnered with the town to help develop RiverWalk and has years of experience with negotiating easements for its trail system.
Council meeting time changesStarting with its Nov. 2 meeting, the Winthrop Town Council will switch its meeting time to 6 p.m. The council meets the second and fourth Wednesday of each month in the Henhouse room at the Winthrop Barn. The council meets at 7 p.m. for about half the year, then reverts to 6 p.m. in the fall and through the winter.
In a memo to the council, Town Planner Rocklynn Culp said she had met with Doug Mohre — along with two members of an informal citizens group that is promoting the RiverWalk project, Brooke Bourn and Rita Kenny — to discuss the Mohres’ specific conditions related to the easement. Those include grandfathering in the rear side of the property from the town’s Westernization code requirements.
In 2017, the town’s Westernization Design Review Board said that improvements to the back sides of existing properties along the RiverWalk route would be voluntary.
The easement agreement will remain with Methow Trails while the town completes its planning and development for RiverWalk, and then be transferred to the town, according to the document approved by the council.
The easement can be no more than 12 feet wide. No motorized vehicles will be allowed. Maintenance of the easement will be the responsibility of the town and Methow Trails. The agreement will be binding on subsequent owners of the property.
In August, the Town Council adopted a “resolution of intent” reinforcing its commitment to planning and developing a recreational path along the banks of the Chewuch and Methow rivers.
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. The town has not been able to negotiate all the easements it needs to complete the project.
The August resolution 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.