Phase I of Winthrop’s River Walk recreational path will be somewhat scaled back from its original scope, but will still include the long-planned pedestrian underpass beneath the Chewuch River Bridge as well as American Disabilities Act (ADA) access to the path.
At last week’s Winthrop Town Council meeting, Town Planner Rocklynn Culp and Public Works Director Jeff Sarvis discussed revised plans for the underpass and adjacent trails on either side of the river. The revisions are necessary to meet ADA requirements and to keep the work within the total grant monies the town has available for the project, they said. And the work needs to be done soon.
“We need to move quickly to keep the funding,” Culp said.
“If we can get this completed, we get the [grant] dollars off the books before we lose them,” Sarvis said.
Sarvis said work on the project, which includes shoring up the riverbank under the bridge with rip rap, will require that one lane of the Chewuch River bridge be closed to traffic at times. The town is also planning to replace an aging water line under the Methow River bridge at the other end of downtown, which will require some traffic adjustments. Sarvis said that ideally the projects won’t be happening simultaneously.
Looking for progress
Mayor Sally Ranzau welcomed the updated information on the RiverWalk project. “People are looking for progress and signs that we are committed” to the project, she said.
The signing of several property easements recently cleared the way to begin work on Phase I. An informal citizens’ group has been working with the town and property owners to reach easement agreements.
RiverWalk is intended to eventually 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.
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 upstream on the Chewuch River from the back of the Emporium to Sa Teekh Wah bridge.
In other business at last week’s meeting, the council decided that the Westernization Design Review Board (WDRB) will have the latitude to decide if some permitting fees can be waived as related to the “Let’s Paint Downtown” campaign.
“Let’s Paint Downtown” is a project to repaint downtown Winthrop’s business buildings and murals. The effort is spearheaded by Shotgun Nellies owner Nilsine Harris, with assistance from the Winthrop Chamber of Commerce and WDRB. The campaign’s goal is to fund repainting of downtown buildings between the two pedestrian bridges.
At last week’s meeting, Harris asked the council to consider waiving any fees associated with new or additional artwork that might be proposed as part of the project.
Ranzau noted that for most Westernization applications, there is no fee associated with permits. Harris said the “Let’s Paint Downtown” volunteers may suggest that some building owners restore their buildings and lettering to the original style, and paying permit fees would eat into the group’s resources.
Council member Ben Nelson said such decisions should be the purview of the WDRB, and other council members agreed.
Work on repainting the Tenderfoot store’s mural has begun, including replacing some of the siding with donated materials, Harris said.
During the public comments period, the council also heard from Andy McConkey and Mike Kutz, who raised concerns about how a new composting business on Horizon Flat Road would affect the neighborhood. B2G Compost has completed its infrastructure and is going through the final permitting process with Okanogan County and the state. B2G owner Kate Wynne expects to begin composting in May and have compost ready for sale in the valley this summer.
Wynne’s business is technically just outside the town limits and in the county’s jurisdiction. In June of last year, the town council agreed to a request by Wynne to provide town water service, as she had been unsuccessful in drilling a workable well on the property. The town agreed to provide up to 8,000 gallons of water a month to the site.
When done properly, compost doesn’t smell, Wynne said in a recent Methow Valley News article. To ensure there are no herbicides in the compost, B2G will not accept hay or horse manure.
When all permitting is complete, B2G will continue to collect commercial food scraps and grains. B2G will also accept food waste and compostables from community members through a partnership with Methow Recycles, which will operate a central collection site.
B2G will need an air-quality permit from the state Department of Ecology, but Wynne said the business is currently exempt because the operation is still so small. It also requires a solid-waste permit from Okanogan County Public Health.
Okanogan County is conducting an environmental review of the B2G Compost application and has issued a threshold determination that the facility will not have a significant impact on the environment. The Okanogan County Planning Department approved the site plan last August.
People can comment on the proposal until April 27. If necessary, the county will add conditions to the environmental determination.
McConkey said the composting business could add traffic in a residential area. He and Kutz said they felt like they did not have adequate notification. Ranzau pointed out that the issue had been on two council meeting agendas and discussed publicly before the council took action in June 2022.
Kutz said the neighborhood would like assurance from the town that traffic won’t negatively affect the area. He said the prospect of large vehicles on the streets “is not a comfortable situation.”
Culp said she and Sarvis were preparing comments for the county’s SEPA review and would include suggestions about mitigating neighborhood impacts.
Council member Bill McAdow said he would like to revisit the water service extension, and asked what the town’s options might be. Sarvis said that would be a legal question.
Ranzau said the issue will be put on an upcoming council meeting agenda for more discussion.