by Richard Uhlhorn
The City of Chelan held a Town Hall meeting at the Chelan Senior Center on Wednesday evening to present J.A. Brennan and Associates preliminary study on potential Public Access sites within the City limits.
An estimated crowd of 65 attended the City’s Town Hall on Public Access Points on Lake Chelan within the City Limits. Lake Chelan Now live streamed the event and 600 people accessed at least a part of the stream. To date however, according to Dennis Rahm, 1200 people have accessed the file.
An estimated 65 citizens attended the meeting to hear the presentation from Jim Brennan and ask questions and or share their concerns
Mayor Cooney told the attendees that this was the third meeting on Access Points to the lake along with the potential purchase of the landlocked 9 acre parcel at Spader Bay.
“Seventeen sites were picked by our consultant,” said Cooney. “We have 18 miles of shoreline in Chelan and only 1.8 miles of public access,” he added. “There is a lot of public land we want to uncover for use.”
Cooney went on to say that the City Council wants to hear from the public about what they are thinking about. He asked that the meeting be kept civil and turned the presentation over to Jim Brennan.
Brennan told the residents that most communities are looking for public access. “We’ve been working on this project for three months and we want to make sure we capture all of your input.”
Jim Brennan of J.A. Brennan and Associates presented the information he has already gathered and held a question and answer session after the presentation.
Brennan stated that he wanted input on the possibilities of public access from the meeting. “I will take the comments and use them towards making conceptual designs.” He stated that he is looking at the diversity of recreation and looks forward to making a better walkable community.
Most of the 17 sites located as potential public access points have no parking but were described as jewels on a necklace around the lake. Most of the potential sites are walk-in or bike-in areas along the planned Lakeshore Trail that will extend from Crystal View Estate’s marina on the North Shore to Lakeside Park on the South Shore.
“As we start to screen these sites, we need to determine what is the highest benefit to the public,” Brennan stated. Most of the access points are 40 to 60 foot wide street ends lost when the lake was raised to the 1100 foot level by the PUD.
The sites with the most potential are already being used by the public. The potential lies in improving them for better use. They include a long section of lakefront along Hwy. 150 between the Chelan Hills Willow Point Park and Lake Chelan Shores. There is a possibility of some parking close to this location.
The other exciting possibility is the street end at Dietrich’s Road. This is jointly owned by Chelan County and the City. It has some real potential for improvements, but doesn’t offer parking. It would be a walk-in or ride-in location.
The heavily used PUD micro park adjacent to the Chelan Ranger District offers some opportunities for access improvement and the Ranger District has indicated it wouldn’t be opposed for those improvements to take place from the District’s south lawn that is already being used by the public. This site has limited parking access.
The other site that has some real potential is already being used by the public is the street end adjacent to Peterson’s Waterfront. It could be improved to allow better non-motorized boat access and swimming.
Sunset Marina’s floating bulkhead is already open to the public, but there is a small beach just south of the bulkhead on the Boat Company’s property that could be opened up. There is also parking available at this location.
Just to the south of the Boat Company’s southern property line there is a street end that is closed off right now, but could be opened and improved for public access. Parking could also be made available at this location.
One of the best points for new public access for swimming is the bay between the West Finger of the Three Fingers and Green Dock. Green Dock on Water Street is a small PUD micro park that became heavily used this past summer as visitors finally discovered it. Opening up the bay with a huge public dock just west of the west finger and the installation of several swimming docks could make this area one of the best walk-in/bike-in points on the lake.
“We still haven’t seen the plans for this,” said Brennan. “The City is looking for them.”
The plans are a compromise plan from a meeting with home owners on Terrace Avenue.
There are several other street ends along Terrace Avenue that offer some good public access.
The Spader Bay property has been up for sale for several years and is being offered to the City at a reduced cost for trail development.
The potential purchase of the nine acres of landlocked Spader Bay property by the City has created a lot of positive and negative buzz amongst the Community. Brennan said that the well-established shrub step land could easily be developed into a trail system with nice view sites up-lake and down-lake.
The land, owned by Linda Evans-Parlette and her sister, is the last piece of the old O’Neal orchard land and has been offered to the City for $400,000. To many residents this is a lot of money to just establish a trail system on.
Access might be negotiated with an easement from Vin du Lac. “The idea of an easement is of interest to them,” said Brennan. There could be a stairway to access the lake, depending on how much the City would be willing to spend on improvements.
Brennan stated that the process of opening these street ends and purchasing Spader Bay are still being explored. Over the next three months, conceptual designs will be developed and shared with the public for more input. This will include cost estimates.
The public was invited to put stickers on those sites they felt were of most interest. They had four green stickers and one orange sticker. After that exercise the meeting was opened up for a question and answer period.
Most of the attendees took the time to place stickers on those sites
they preferred to be developed.
Brigette Sztab, a local kayaker and lake user stated that she would like to see more places to get into the water. Her complaint was that there were limited parking places to access the lake. “All of us who love the lake can’t find parking.”
The other complaint was the lack of parking at existing parks.
Another resident complained that the unimproved beach from the marina bulkhead towards Don Morse Park needs to be cleaned up so it can be better utilized by the public. Councilman Tim Hollingsworth said, “It sounds more like a maintenance issue.”
Another resident stated that there was no place for people who live in Chelan to go swimming. “We need more swimming areas,” she said.
Tom Clark, who says he is a public advocate, called for the City to instigate eminent domain on the Three Fingers. He said the public owns a 140 foot wide swath across the fingers and the right of ways that go into the lake. “We need to rely on the (city) government to seek eminent domain on the Three Fingers,” said Clark. “It needs to be done.”
Another resident brought up security and safety issues if the City purchased Spader Bay. She wondered how the Fire Department would access the area in case of a fire and added that the property has been a party place for the public. Skip Morehouse said it was a dangerous place.
Mayoral candidate Bob Goedde brought up the risk management of these areas and said the City should be thinking hard about liability issues.
In the end, it was clear that everyone would like to see signage at each of the public access points so people would know them.
It was also stated that the lowest hanging fruit should be developed first before going after the more difficult areas.
More information will be made available to the public as it becomes available.