by Richard Uhlhorn
Chelan’s City Council addressed agenda items at its virtual meeting on Tuesday evening, August 11.
At the Council’s request regarding criminalizing the consumption of alcohol at its public park, Quentin Batjer, city attorney, wrote this introduction on the City’s agenda bill “Open Container/Consumption of Alcohol in City Parks.”
As requested, I have been drafting an ordinance regarding re-criminalizing opening or consuming alcohol in parks. What started as a relatively simple task has taken on new flavor as I realized that state law also treats opening/consuming alcohol as a civil infraction as opposed to criminal conduct. In other words, the City wants to criminalize something that the state legislature has expressly said is not a crime.
The idea of changing the City’s ordinance from a civil infraction to a criminal infraction would give the Sheriff’s deputies the power to arrest when there is over drunkenness or unruly behavior in the parks.
During the discussion on the issue, Erin McCardle stated that there were only three major problem weekends the City has to deal with. She stated that she would hate to see a family enjoying a bottle of wine with their lunch be tagged with an infraction. In addition, she said, “We just don’t have the staffing level to have the Sheriff in the parks.”
Mayor Goedde stated that at this stage of the game the City doesn’t have a problem until the younger crowd comes. “Our visitors have changed to a younger party type this year.”
Ray Dobbs added, “We saw that on the Fourth of July. The last several weekends have been more family oriented.”
City Administrator Wade Ferris remarked that the past weekend with security was moderately successful, but there were still some glitches to overcome. “We will have a different plan of action in place this coming weekend,” he said. This is based on feedback from citizens, security people and parks staff. “The security people did not have their first string on hand.”
Don Morse Park was much more controlled than Lakeside Park and Ferris said the security people need very clear instructions and if there was any question, they had the phone numbers for Parks Director Paul Horne and himself. “Hopefully we will relieve some of the confusion.”
Lakeside Park was full most of the day on Saturday
Parking was still a problem at Lakeside, particularly on the highway. Signage will be moved out beyond where it was last weekend. “Hopefully as word gets out, more people will understand that it is First Come – First Serve.”
Goedde remarked that putting a “Park Closed” sign prior to the entrance might help a lot. Ferris also said people will get into the park if they can prove they are a Chelan resident.
Peter Jamtgaard remarked that it wasn’t perfect but the results were way past where the City was previously. Tim Hollingsworth said that a lot of people came up to recreate at the parks from Wenatchee. “The security folks were taking a lot of questions.” He felt that Sunday was a lot better than Saturday. “The neighborhoods were not full of cars and that is a real positive step,” said Hollingsworth. He also said that a Spanish speaking security guard was needed at the entrances.
Ray Dobbs remarked that it was a great first weekend. He stated that with schools being shut down, he expects visitors beyond Labor Day. Servando Robledo said he talked to some Hispanics and they were confused, but then understood why the City was doing what it was.
Robledo was asked if he could record something in Spanish for the radio stations. He said he would be happy to do so if someone would give him a template.
McCardle said she would make sure that the hotels and vacation rentals have the information the City sent out. “I will make a personal followup. We also need to find that avenue for the Hispanic community.” Robledo said that word has to get into the Spanish newspaper on onto the Spanish radio shows and stations. “We need to get the word out to that community in Wenatchee and up to Brewster,” said Robledo.
The PUD micro park at the Forest Service was busy on Saturday afternoon.
Chelan Waterfront Access Plan Update: https://cityofchelan.civicweb.net/document/26615/Chelan%20Waterfront%20Access%20Plan%20Update.pdf?handle=AEB63D5288E8487BA4F9FCA4B7C91A24
In August of 2019, the Chelan City Council approved a Professional Services Agreement with JA Brennan to conduct a feasibility study of potential public access points to help disburse overcrowding at Chelan’s parks and to give locals more public access to the lake.
Jim Brennan provided an update on his feasibility study at the Tuesday meeting. The link above will give readers an opportunity to study the identified areas for public access and the conceptual visual plans for each of them.
“Paul (Horne) and I have been collaborating on design and the following are preliminary concepts with cost estimates,” Brennan told the council members.
Councilman John Olson remarked in the Council/Mayor comments later that only one percent of Lake Chelan is open to the public.
Many of these street ends that make up the majority of potential public access points have limited parking potential and Brennan remarked that many of them would be walk-in or bike-in access points for the local community. They all are close to or adjacent to the proposed Northshore Trail on the north side of the lake and Lakeside Trail on the south side of the lake.
Some of the potential sites are considered low hanging fruit… the best and easiest to construct. They are:
Site A – Waterfront Access at Lake Chelan Shores
Site B – Dietrich Road street end.
Site C – Bridge site by the Grandview on the Lake
Site D – N. Park Street street end at Petersons
Site E – Vacated street end between Sunset Marina and the Lady of the Lake
Site F – Main Street end
Site H – Green Dock
Activities at these sites could include viewing, swimming, hiking/biking, hand carried boat access, wading, picknicking, fishing and just playing or socializing.
Brennan talked about each of the preferred sites. He feels the Dietrich Street End could eventually hookup with the Spader Bay property.
Since there is no parking at the Peterson’s street end, Brennan remarked that it would be a great walk-in or ride-in for locals on the Lakeshore trail. “It’s already a nice access point,” said Brennan. “It could be a better connection but there isn’t a lot of public parking.”
Horne remarked that the manager at Sunset Marina was excited about the possibility of a beach area between the Boat Company and marina. The Courtney’s also saw a lot of potential for the Boat Company’s customers to relax while waiting for the boat.
Green Dock is already well used by locals. “Most of these sites are used more by locals,” said Brennan. His concept includes an overlook dock at the corner of Water Street and Terrace Avenue and shade trees down Terrace Avenue. There are private docks under lease with the PUD and Brennan said they would remain.
“Some of these sites could be very simple (to construct),” remarked Horne. “There is a lot of low hanging fruit and we will factor these sites into the Park’s Master Plan to be eligible for grants and funding.”
Ty Witt acknowledged the tremendous body of work that went into the feasibility study and said, “I just love it.” Hollingsworth said the City needs to cultivate good relationships with the neighboring property owners and bring the community together.
Dobbs stated that the feasibility study is one more piece to the public access puzzle, but asked if there were still questions about the legality of those street ends being public. Brennan replied that his research has cleared most and was working with landowners for easements. “It is pretty well documented,” said Brennan.
During these comments Dobbs asked if a citizen’s group could write parking tickets to fill in the gap for those law enforcement deputies who don’t have enough time. “I think it would be valuable. The highways are dangerous,” said Dobbs. He is concerned with parked cars blocking bike lanes and pedestrian traffic.
Mayor Goedde stated he contacted the insurance company and said the City was only allowed to place cones to the city limits… everything beyond is the state’s responsibility. He has asked the DOT to move the 35 mph sign farther out so drivers know they have to slow down.
Hollingsworth said he didn’t have much to add but remarked that the pandemic has brought things to a head.
Dobbs commented that he was told the overflow from the parks ended up in Riverwalk Park. Hollingsworth added that they didn’t notice a lot of additional parking up at his location.
John Olson stated that he appreciates the effort but that it is to little, to late.
Erin McCardle asked for $8,000 from the $126,000 CARES funds to help build outdoor seating to increase capacity at the local restaurants. Goedde added that it wouldn’t be a permanent fix. Hollingsworth said he wanted to see plans before he could support the expenditure. McCardle promised to give a summary to each councilmember after the Downtown Associations meeting on Thursday.
Olson said he wasn’t against the idea but has been caught by surprise. In the end, the $8,000 was granted.
With regards to jumping off the bridge, new signs would be put up warning jumpers they were in violation and could end up with a $500 fine. “I think if we give out a few tickets, the word would get out quickly,” said Ferris.