Action required for state RCO grant application process
The Twisp Town Council will work with the Methow Conservancy toward the town’s eventual ownership of the 144-acre Mill Hill property the Conservancy recently purchased, but first the town’s parks and recreation plan must be updated.
In September, the Conservancy announced it had purchased the privately owned property adjacent to Twisp with the goal of eventually turning that land over to the town for recreational use. The unincorporated, vacant land is east of Twisp-Winthrop Eastside Road and north of Highway 20, and is already popular with hikers, runners and snowshoers.
The Conservancy’s plan is to hold the property and help the town apply for a state Recreation and Conservation Office (RCO) grant in 2024 to fund the town’s purchase of the Mill Hill acreage from the Conservancy. Grant funds would be available in 2025. If awarded, the state will pay up to 70% of the appraised value of the property.
In the meantime, the site will remain accessible through an easement over adjacent private property.
At last week’s Town Council meeting, Conservancy Executive Director Sarah Brooks told the council that the Mill Hill property must be included in the town’s parks and recreation plan to be eligible for an RCO grant. That would mean amending the plan by March 1 to take part in the next round of grant applications, Brooks said.
Council members agreed to ask the Parks and Recreation Commission to begin working on a plan amendment that would be ready in time for the RCO grant application process.
The Mill Hill project is intended to emulate the process that created Winthrop’s Meadowlark Natural Area. The Conservancy purchased that property adjacent to the Heckendorn area in 2018 through a gift from longtime Methow Valley part-time residents Tina and Eliot Scull. In 2021, the town received an RCO grant of $444,000 to purchase the 139-acre property from the Conservancy.
The Mill Hill purchase was made possible through gifts from two families “deeply invested in the Methow Valley,” the Conservancy said earlier.
Brooks said at last week’s meeting that the Mill Hill property does not have to be annexed to the town. Although the Meadowlark Natural Area is owned by the Town of Winthrop, Brooks said, it is outside the town limits.
Brooks said the Conservancy would continue to be involved in management of the Mill Hill property, as it is with the Meadowlark Natural Area.
Two acres of the 144-acre property at the base of Mill Hill are in the process of being annexed to the Town of Twisp. “These acres do not interfere with the public use of the property, nor do they interfere with the Methow Conservancy’s project.,” the Conservancy said.
The Conservancy does not plan to make any significant changes to the property. Issues like a long-term parking solution and trailhead will be addressed under anticipated future town ownership, the Conservancy said earlier.
In other business, the council:
• approved an update of the town’s Shorelines Master Program, as required by the state Department of Ecology. The Twisp Planning Commission has been working on the update for nearly a year.
• approved an agreement with NCW Libraries under which the libraries system will pay for use and maintenance of the space in the Methow Valley Community Center that is occupied by the Twisp library.
• approved a memorandum of understanding with the Methow Arts Alliance regarding oversight of the downtown Creative District, including formation of an advisory board. The board will be comprised of two council members, one arts administrator, two town residents, one member of an arts organization within the district, and one business owner within the district.
Council member Mark Easton said the memorandum clarifies the responsibilities of the town and Methow Arts and will facilitate the Creative District’s future development activities.
• approved an increase in the yearly hangar lease rate at the Twisp Municipal Airport from $443 this year to $482 in 2024. The increase is consistent with an agreed-upon adjustment schedule based on the regional Consumer Price Index.
Chlorine in Twisp water supply
Twisp residents may have noticed a strong chlorine smell in their tap water for a day or two last week. According to an alert by Okanogan County Emergency Management, the Town of Twisp had worked with a water consultant to perform a one-time disinfectant of the drinking water system using chlorine. A higher dose than desired was applied, causing a strong chlorine smell for some residents, according to the alert.
Twisp Public Works flushed out and tested the system, and the chlorine residual was lowered to non-detectable or near non-detectable levels in most of the water distribution system by last Friday, according to the alert. Twisp Public Works will continue to monitor the water system.