Council OK's park design with 3-1 vote


March 10, 2022

It wasn't easy, but the Cathlamet Town Council approved the final design for a planned waterfront park on the site of former sewage lagoons.

Approval came on a 3-1 vote after two council members insisted a restroom be located in Strong Park across Birnie Creek from the waterfront park site.

In the proposed waterfront park design, land along the Columbia shoreline would have a meadow, waterfront access and a restroom. Land further away from the river would be developed as a habitat restoration area with trails and a blind for watching birds. An amphitheater would be developed across the creek in Strong Park, and trails would be modified to meet standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Council Members Jeanne Hendrickson and Laurel Waller insisted a restroom must be located near the amphitheater. The proposed restroom location near the river is too far from the amphitheater to be convenient, they said.

Design consultant Audrey West commented that the focus of the waterfront park would be the shoreline facilities, and that is a major reason for locating a restroom there. The bedrock is quite near the surface at Strong Park, she added, and that could make installation of a restroom there difficult and expensive.

"This doesn't mean the design is set in stone," she said. "There's still room for alternatives."

On a different front, Council Member Robert Stowe expressed strong concern that the proposed park is too expensive for the town. The total cost to the town would be over $1 million, he said, adding, "We don't have the funding for that."

Mayor David Olson had explained that the park would be developed in phases, using grant money for most of the expense. He said he has consulted with granting agency staff and believes funding would be available that would make the project very affordable.

"We're pushing forward without any attention to saying, ‘Can we afford this?'" Stowe commented.

Olson also explained that the application for grant funds for the first phase of the park is very complicated, and he'll spend lots of time in the next two months in the office to get it completed.

The council needed to approve the final design to be included in the application, but it appeared there wouldn't be sufficient votes in favor because of the restroom issue.

After much discussion, Town Attorney Fred Johnson suggested the council could approve the final design with an added proviso stating final restroom location would be subject to further assessment.

The motion to approve the final design was then amended and passed with Hendrickson, Waller and Kermit Chamberlin in favor and Stowe opposed.

In subsequent public comment county Commissioner Lee Tischer suggested a restroom could be added to the Wahkiakum County Historical Society Museum, which is near the amphitheater and could be accessed when there are events at the amphitheater.

Olson, a member of the historical society board of directors, said he would look into that possibility.


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