Council wrestles with park budget

Spending constraints inspire alternatives, concessions


October 26, 2023

The Town of Cathlamet continued to parse out details of the waterfront park design with engineers during a workshop last Monday. “At the last workshop we decided to move forward with a design that did not fill in the lagoons completely because of cost issues, but instead would provide an elevated pad on the westerly side adjacent to the westerly dike, for a picnic shelter,” Mike Johnson, an engineer with Gray and Osborne said. “We’ve further refined that concept in this updated site plan.” He said that one suggestion was to use fill material from the center berm between the east and west lagoons as fill for the picnic shelter area, as a way to reduce the total amount of import fillneeded. There was also some thought to using the existing center dike to ramp down with a path.

The engineers also considered concerns from the earlier workshop regarding lighting andchanged the suggested but expensive solar lights to electric power lights, which they said wouldmake room in the budget for a picnic shelter.

Town council member Laurel Waller wondered about light ordinances, which led to a discussionabout light pollution and the International Dark Sky Society. Johnson said the lights were taller, and were pointing downward, creating well illuminated areas along the paths. The plans also include the removal of a tree in Strong Park that is currently tearing up the path, and making the path ADA compliant.

One portion of the proposed park is expected to remain a habitat restoration area along Birnie

Creek. All the invasive species would be removed and replaced with native species to create a

nature walk, while the other portion of the park would become an open meadow.

Town councilmember Jeanne Hendrickson raised concerns about the large chunks of asphalt

that were being dumped in the park as fill.

Town clerk Sarah Clark believed that the council voted a year or two earlier to allow asphalt to

be used, but she said concrete had to be removed.

“If you are going to try and fill it with concrete chunks you need to grind it up into pieces you can

adequately compact,” Johnson said. “Asphalt isn’t ideal either. If we had the choice, we’d rather

use clean fill. Some of it may be able to be used, some may need to be pulled out and taken

somewhere else.”

“We now have mountains of it,” Hendrickson said. She suggested a temporary stay until they

were certain it was acceptable, which Councilmember Robert Stowe later echoed.

“We’re not wedded to this concept of dumping huge chunks of concrete,” Stowe said. “Would

you please ask the public works director to stop until we come to a better understanding of

what we are going to do?”

Mayor David Olson agreed to do so.

Stowe had more concerns about potential flooding and talk turned to adding drainage.

“You are not adding a significant amount of impervious surface relative to the overall surface

area of the lagoons,” Johnson pointed out. “You are adding some, and when you do you

essentially make the water go someplace else because it can’t go into the ground.”

You may have some water in heavy rain, he added, but generally when it gets that wet, those

parks aren’t getting a lot of use.

He also pointed out that their budget did not allow for drainage, though it could be added later.

“As we improve it and put grass down and people use it more often as a meadow, we may find

that there are areas that need drainage improvement to use them in the shoulder seasons, in

the early spring and late fall,” Johnson said.

Johnson offered the town council several examples of prefab picnic shelters to consider.

The initial budget for the shelter was $60-70,000, he told them, but erecting a 600 square foot

structure brought the cost closer to $100,000.

After considering the examples, the council seemed to agree they wanted something “less


Stowe suggested a gazebo that town employees might erect themselves.

After an hour the workshop closed with final comments from the council members. Johnson

expressed his appreciation for the feedback.

Hendrickson said she was more concerned about the drainage and didn’t want to take money

from the base park for an expensive gazebo.

"We can always replace a structure, we can’t change the topography and the layout of the

design,” she said.

“I’m glad we are moving forward,” Baker said.

Tim Hanigan, counsel for Port 1 spoke on their behalf.

He said the port would be updating their comprehensive plan at the beginning of 2024, and

future long term plans for their property adjacent to the proposed park included an upgrade of

the RV park and camp sites, potential additional park models, and a potential business park.

He noted that the port supported two access points to the park, one on either side, but if there

was to be a middle one, their suggestion was that the town add parking to their plan.

“We appreciate working with the town in a positive manner,” Hanigan said.


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