Washougal to start work on Columbia River Trail

The 3,500-foot path will connect Waterfront Park, Steamboat Landing

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Construction on the city of Washougal's Columbia River Trail project is set to begin in September. (Contributed graphic courtesy of the city of Washougal)

One of the city of Washougal’s major projects for 2020 is scheduled to get under way later this year after a slight delay, while another has been pushed back to 2021.

The city will start accepting construction bids for its Columbia River Trail project later this month, and hopes to begin work in late September or early October with the goal of completing the trail by Jan. 31, 2021.

“I don’t know how many times people have asked me when that trail will be done. People are excited for it, and I’m glad it’s happening,” said Port of Camas-Washougal Commissioner Cassi Marshall, who also is a member of the Camas Parks and Recreation Commission. “We’ve been eagerly waiting for this connection to get finished. It’s really important, and will be a huge amenity.”

The project will construct a 3,500-foot trail that will connect the Washougal Waterfront Park and Trail with Steamboat Landing.

“When the Port of Camas-Washougal built its trail four years ago, we started getting pressured to complete that section of the trail,” said city of Washougal engineer Rob Charles. “We always planned to make that connection. It just took longer than we anticipated, but that’s how things go when dealing with agencies and property owners.”

The trail will provide recreation access in both directions along the riverfront. To the west, it will connect directly to the Waterfront Trail and other popular recreation destinations, including the Washougal River Greenway and Lacamas and Heritage parks. To the east, the U.S. Corps of Engineers Levee trail will lead trail users from Steamboat Landing Park through the state Route 14 pedestrian tunnel into downtown Washougal or beyond to Captain William Clark Regional Park, Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge and Gibbons Creek Wildlife Art Trail.

“It’s the missing link,” Charles said. “Actually, people are already (walking through there) right now. They see that connection and wander through there; we’ve heard about that from property owners. It will be nice to actually have a marked (trail) for people, who can walk down the middle of a road and hopefully feel safer with a sidewalk and an actual trail that’s marked and wide enough to use and feel safe.”

“This connection will be vital moving forward as the waterfront develops and downtown continues to grow and thrive,” Marshall added. “I’m thinking it’s going to be a win-win for the waterfront and the downtown. It will be a boon to businesses as well. When the trail goes through, the ‘walkability’ of our community will increase. People will be able to walk to businesses and restaurants from their homes and not have to drive. And outside of the economic benefits, it’s just an enjoyable walk.”

The $1.75 million project is being funded by a $1 million grant, awarded to the city by the Washington Department of Commerce in 2018, and monies from the city’s general projects fund.

“There was a little bit of delay with the consultants (due to the COVID-19 pandemic),” Charles said. “We’re probably a month or so behind where we normally would have been. I had anticipated that we’d have started construction by now. But the projects that we had outside funding for — this one, the George Schmid Ballfields, the Jemtegaard trail — we wanted to get those done.”

The city is waiting until 2021, however, to begin the Schmid Ballfields project.

“The delay is not financial, so it does not affect the budgets, other than funds will carry over into 2021,” Washougal City Manager David Scott said. “The delay was around the planning and design, and those delays were COVID-19 related — impacts to consultants and our operations pushed things just enough to require us to move the project to 2021. We are still tracking for that project and look forward to getting it constructed next year.”

The $2.6 million project will build a third field, pave the parking lot, and add water, sanitary and electrical services, permanent restroom facilities, lighting, and accessible paths and seating.

“We’re well into the process of design and permitting, so we probably could’ve (began) construction in the winter, but we’ll push it to next spring and hope to get a better building climate,” Scott said. “We’ll start advertising in December or January, if all goes according to plan.”