by Richard Uhlhorn
Chelan’s Tuesday workshop began with a standing room only crowd attending to hear the Chelan Butte acquisition discussion. Most of the crowd attending the session were from Chelan or the Lake Chelan Valley, but were proponents of the successful Wenatchee Foothill’s Project.
City Administrator Wade Ferris opened the meeting explaining that public comment is not allowed at the City’s workshops.
The primary discussion topic of the Butte acquisition was a proffered Resolution of the City Council commitment to preserve areas of Chelan Butte for public access and use.
This resolution seeks the City as a co-applicant for a Local Community Project request for $300,000 from the 2023 Washington State Capital Budget for a planning grant to the Trust for Public Land (TPL) to study issues pertaining tot he preservation of Chelan Butte, including options for land acquisition funding, land uses, ownership structure, and development and maintenance costs.
TPL’s planning process would include extensive community engagement and a final report summarizing its findings.
Wenatchee’s Park Director, David Erickson, gave a presentation to the Council and staff about the process the City of Wenatchee and its citizens went through to acquire, with the help of TPL, the land for its Foothill’s project. “This actually began in 1909,” said Erickson who added, “hopefully your project will not take that long.”
In the late 90’s the citizens of Wenatchee asked the City to look at grants for the Foothills. The first grant came from the National Park Service and the Saddle Rock area was adopted in 2006. A community strategy document was prepared. “It was the community that came together,” said Erickson. The plan was adopted by Chelan County, Port of Chelan County and the City of Wenatchee.
Erickson told the Council that thousands and thousands of people helped make the Foothills Project a success. Saddlerock, the Lower Castle Rock Nature Area, Foothills Natural Area, Saddlerock Gateway, Foothills Regional Recreation Area and the Sage Hills Gateway are just a few of the successful projects undertaken with the help of TPL and the Chelan-Douglas Land Trust.
Erickson stated that the process includes land acquisition, development and then, operations and maintenance. “It’s a long process which has taken us 20 years.”
Mayor Bob Goedde asked Erickson what the operational costs were for the 1,800 acres. Erickson replied that he couldn’t give actual numbers, but that there was a City Crew that helped with maintenance and operations.
Goedde replied that the Chelan residents cannot afford to maintain a system. “I’m concerned about the cost of operations,” said Goedde.
The City has included $500,000 in its 2023-2027 Capital Improvements Program toward the purchase of up to 875 acres of Butte lands owned by Golden Gate Ventures of Salt Lake City, UT.
Chelan Basin Conservancy has been the lead organization to move this process to its current status. Councilman Tim Hollingsworth stated that there are potential partners woh would work with the City including the Lake Chelan Trails Alliance.
Councilman Chris Baker asked how long the $500,000 was good for and was told up to five years. Councilman John Olson said that the Saddle Rock trailhead has all 50 slots full of users on any given day. Hollingsworth added that, if acquired, the Butte property would become a regional facility.
Potential partners include the City, Trust for Public Land, Chelan Basin Conservancy, Lake Chelan Trails Alliance and the Chelan-Douglas Land Trust.
The resolution for the City to be involved in the Butte acquisition will be up for further discussion and potential City commitment to provide the necessary actions to preserve the areas of Chelan Butte for public use.