The Wahkiakum County Eagle - Established as The Skamokawa Eagle in 1891

Commissioners adopt parks & recreation plan; ferry closure rescheduled


February 20, 2020

Wahkiakum County commissioners on Tuesday adopted a county parks and recreation plan despite citizen concerns it focuses too heavily on the Johnson Park facility at Rosburg.

In other business, the board once again tabled a decision on removing trees at the Johnson House in Cathlamet and rescheduled the coming drydock closure for the ferry Oscar B., which will now start March 11.

The parks and recreation plan identifies parks, community centers and other recreational facilities across the county and provides an analysis defining priorities for development, preservation, enhancement and so on.

The plan also includes a capital improvement plan for various projects.

During the public hearing about the plan, two citizens objected to a focus on Johnson Park in the Westend.

Puget Island resident Sylvia Costich said she had compiled a spreadsheet of spending identified in the plan and it showed over 60 percent of spending was anticipated for Johnson Park.

And while the plan identifies many improvements for Johnson Park, both interior and exterior facilities, it shows little emphasis for facilities in the eastern portion of the county, including the community center in Cathlamet.

"As I read this plan, I was struck by how much it emphasizes Johnson Park," she said. "The plan is skewed to support Johnson Park. So what about the needs of the part of the county where the majority of citizens live?"

Facilities are limited in the Cathlamet area, she said. The community center is small and open a few hours a day. The town has parks, but the only athletic facilities are on school property and limited to after school use. Other parks on county property are small and/or are essentially parking lots, she said.

Costich also pointed out a number of typos and inconsistencies in terminology throughout the plan.

Another Puget Island resident, Marianne Brightbill supported Costich's comments.

Bill Fashing, executive director of the Cowlitz/Wahkiakum Council of Governments (COG), said the plan is intended to guide the county in making investments in parks and recreation facilities and that the typos and inconsistencies could be cleared up in a final draft.

Ron Wright, part of the group that pressed the county to adopt the plan last spring, said a major purpose for the plan is to allow the county qualify for application for state park and recreation grant funding. The plan must be adopted by March 1 for the current funding cycle. If adopted, and a county application were approved, funding would come in July, 2021. If the plan is delayed, funding for a successful grant application would be delayed to July, 2023.

"I would like this plan approved so that we can get funding for projects at Johnson Park and the fairgrounds," he said.

Commissioners mulled the comments and agreed to adopt the plan, with a provision that COG would take care of the typos and inconsistencies.

Commissioner Gene Strong commented that the community center in Cathlamet likely isn't mentioned as much as Johnson Park is and that it is probably included in the Town of Cathlamet's park and recreation plan.

Commissioner Mike Backman said he and others are working to increase activities at the Cathlamet center, including hiring a director for both Cathlamet and Johnson Park centers.

Commissioner Dan Cothren commented that the costs for refurbishing and improving Johnson Park are huge but necessary.

"We've got to keep it up," he said.

In other business, county officials said there is no backup plan in place to maintain a transportation route if another landslide closes SR 4 on KM Mountain while the ferry Oscar B. is in drydock starting March 11.

County officials learned Wednesday afternoon that the drydock, expected to last about 11 days, was rescheduled. It has been announced and publicized that it would run Feb 24-March 4. Tuesday’s discussion focused on that original period (word of the new starting date reached The Eagle too late to change for the printed edition).

"There's no alternate route," asked Skamokawa resident Kay Walters.

"We're limited," Commissioner Cothren replied, noting that the only other roads over KM are closed logging roads on private land. "What can we do? People will have to plan extra time to go around."

Has anyone asked the Coast Guard to allow the ferry back in service from drydock in an emergency, Walters asked.

"Once it's in drydock, it's not going to leave," Cothren said. "It will stay there."

The county has scheduled the drydock work for required Coast Guard inspection, some repairs and some painting.

Commissioners also delayed action on a decision of when to cut trees on the Johnson House property in Cathlamet.

Port District 1 commissioners have expressed interest in leasing the house; they postponed for a month a decision on moving ahead with the lease when they met last Tuesday, said county Public Works Director Chuck Beyer.

County commissioners have said they'll hire a tree service contractor to take the trees out if the port wants to lease the house. If the port doesn't want to lease the house, they'll have the house demolished and then fall the trees.

The delay in decision allows the county to obtain updated quotes for tree removal, Strong commented, and the board agreed to wait another month to hear from Port 1 before making its decision.


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