Brooks Park sought by District
The state of Washington doesn’t want Brooks Park. The Central Klickitat Conservation District does.
The park is among the state’s 13 park castaways as the legislature seeks drastic budget reductions. The District would like to take the park over, and it’s moving ahead quickly to accomplish that.
“The District is pursuing taking over Brooks Park,” says Jim Hill, District Manager for the Central and Eastern Klickitat Conservation Districts. “We still have quite a ways to go. It’s not required, but we’d like to do at least one, maybe two, public meetings on it to let everybody know what’s going on and why we’re doing it. And we still have to make a formal proposal to Regional State Parks in Wenatchee by early April.”
From that point, Regional State Parks will make a recommendation to the State Parks Commission. In June, at a meeting in Walla Walla, the state will make its final decision on transferring ownership of the park.
The District considers it would be a good steward of the park, and for support it can point to its award from the state Conservation Commission as the 2009 South Central Conservation District of the Year. The award cites the District for several significant accomplishments.
“We were told that the park is on the state’s transfer list because it’s one of 13 that don’t meet the state’s planning requirements,” Hill says. “The governor’s office has said these parks are to be transferred; they will be out of the state’s hands. They will transfer property deeds and any and all equipment required to operate the parks.”
While the District wants to be the recipient of such a transfer, it also wants to move carefully. “The problem we have is that we cannot operate at a deficit,” Hill says. “The way the park is operating now, it’s not making money. Except for the Environmental Learning Center [ELC], the park is presently free to enter. The east side of the park does make a profit.” The ELC is on the sprawling east side of the park; the largest portion of Brooks spreads well off to the east of Highway 97.
A workable financial model is something the District is busily putting together. While Hill sees a time when the park could operate in the black, he considers the first two or three years to be critical start-up stages and foresees the need for significant funds infusions to keep the park solvent until its reaches profitability.
“There are 700 acres of the park that will be deeded in the immediate Brooks Park area, on both sides of the road,” Hill says. “Then there’s an additional 160 acres that’s not contiguous, up where the old ski lodge used to be, on top of Satus Pass. We’re going to ask for that, but since it’s not contiguous, we’re not sure they’ll give it to us.”
District volunteer supervisor and auditor Vic Blandine points out that the largest portion of the park is almost invisible to common public perception. “The analogy that works for me is an iceberg,” Blandine says. “When you pass Brooks, on the right all you see is a bunch of trees. What is hidden is the ELC and all that’s back there.”
On April 13, Jim Harris from State Parks Commission will be in Goldendale for a public meeting on the transfer. The final state of the process occurs in June, at which time the transfer could be finalized.
Gorge Compact bill could put Gorge control in Oregon hands
State Rep. Bruce Chandler reports that the recent Washington House of Representatives vote of approval on the Gorge Compact bill has potentially broad—and undesirable—consequences, which is why he voted against it. (Republican David Taylor voted for the bill.) He spoke by phone from Olympia, where the legislature remains in special session.
The bill as passed by the House essentially seeks to end Washington’s involvement with the Gorge Commission, an organization representing both Oregon and Washington in maintenance and land usage along the Columbia River Gorge.
“The Gorge Commission had a directive,” Chandler said, “among other things to develop land use in the Gorge. The common argument around here is that the Commission has done its job and we can move on. My reservation is that the bill directs the governor to dissolve the Compact.”
Chandler expresses two key reservations about the bill. “First, there’s no exit plan,” he says. “There’s a serious question about that impact. One of the things the Compact does is handle appeals. Who’s going to handle those if the Compact is gone? The critical point is that everybody needs to know what the world looks like without the Compact. How is the Gorge going to be governed? Second, the people who live and work in the Gorge aren’t that aware of this bill and what it might mean; they haven’t had a chance to weigh in on it. You don’t act in haste without community involvement.”
Another lesser-known concern that arises for Chandler is one raised by state attorneys in Olympia. “There’s a scenario in which only Oregon could continue in the Commission, with only Oregon members.” Washington, in short, could end up without a voice in the Gorge Commission.
The bill remains in the House rules committee. Chandler anticipates that the bill will be passed out again and move to the Senate for consideration.
Ekone Park cleared for bluegrass festival
Cougars, bluegrass music, and dancing at the bowling lanes were among the issues addressed at Monday’s Goldendale city council meeting.
Police Chief Rick Johnson began with a report on cougar sightings in the city, mentioning a killing of a cougar outside of town. “There have been increased cougar sightings,” Johnson said. “There was one on North Columbus on the bridge, one on Byers Street, and one was seen on Mill, in a tree. If a cougar is sighted, people should call the police immediately. There’s a lot of food for cougars out there.”
The cougar that was shot out of town was about 70 pounds, Johnson said. The one that been sighted in town is a larger animal.
Johnson also reported that there has been a significant increase in graffiti around town and that there are suspects in the vandalism. He also spoke of the Drugs to Mugs program coming Tuesday, March 23, to the Goldendale High School.
Goldendale Chamber of Commerce executive director Mindy Blomquist made a presentation to the council requesting exclusive use of Ekone Park for the Chamber’s “Fiddlin’ Under the Stars Bluegrass, Wine, and Art Festival” for May 20 through May 23. The request was granted. Blomquist also gave an update on the Chamber’s activities to promote tourism in the area, which include a focus on the area’s history, astronomy, and wineries. “Goldendale is authentic,” Blomquist said, “and that’s a theme we’re using.” She also mentioned the Chamber’s new online calendar system and that in the past week, some 50 events have been entered on the calendar by people in the community.
Holly Backes and Jeffrey Porter presented a request to the council for a temporary cabaret license for the Golden Lanes Bowling Alley. Porter introduced himself as a new business partner to Backes. The cabaret license request was granted for the remainder of this month, to allow the bowling alley to hold indoor dance events.
In other council action, Public Works director Keith Grundei proposed new no parking signs to be placed on the 200 to 300 blocks of West Allyn and the 300 block of Court Street, to provide for greater safety in those areas. As well, the city is considering placing a no parking from here to corner sign at the corner of Roosevelt and Collins.