Duffy's Pond proposal a winner for Kennewick

February 19, 2012 

The Port of Kennewick continues to march forward with its vision to create a more appealing waterfront along the Columbia River between the cable and blue bridges.

We've been big fans of the redevelopment project since the port announced its plan about five years ago. The great thing is that it's not just a bunch of talk. The port actually is getting things done.

Most visible are the improvements on Clover Island, with the lighthouse, welcoming arch, walking paths and public art. It also is home to the port's headquarters and a new building for the Clover Island Yacht Club, among other amenities.

The port has been buying up parcels of land in the target area, investing around $5 million along the way. It purchased the Willows Trailer Park, an eyesore but a beloved home to many folks, and helped relocate residents and clean up the entrance to the island.

Now the port has its eye on Duffy's Pond, a 10-acre retention basin east of Clover Island Drive and south of the Columbia River. The port of Kennewick has developed a plan that would create walking paths, pedestrian bridges and a sort of nature preserve for the public.

The neglected pond has become an unfortunate dump site for garbage and has a weedy peninsula known as Catfish Island. It's not a pretty place to visit. The pond made headlines last year when a man's body was found there. His remains may have gone unnoticed for two years prior to the discovery.

The port owns most of the land adjacent to the pond, including the former miniature golf course as well as other properties along the corridor. And the port sees cleaning up the pond as a necessary and important piece of the waterfront renovation.

But it needs Kennewick's help to get that done. The city has jurisdiction over the site under a lease with the Army Corps of Engineers.

Kennewick has already made some investments in the area, with trails and a small park near the levee where the Sacagawea Trail follows the river.

The port would expand the park, build a gazebo and create a network of trails on Catfish Island. The plan includes pedestrian bridges, observation decks and tribal art.

As usual with waterfront sites, the tribes will have a huge influence on whether the project could proceed.

Port officials see the improvements at Duffy's Pond as a catalyst for the whole area, and something that could help attract commercial development in the corridor.

After all, who wants to invest in waterfront redevelopment when one of the main attractions is stagnant pond?

Community members see reasons to salvage the pond. Sharefest volunteers hauled a large amount of garbage from the site last year, and plan to do another cleanup next month.

To make the vision for the pond reality, the city would need to sublease the property to the port. The Kennewick City Council will consider that request Feb. 28 during a workshop. If a sublease is approved, city staff would need to work with the port, tribes and the Corps to finalize the deal.

The port is willing to take on the financial burden of redeveloping Duffy's Pond and its surroundings. It just needs the cooperation of the city to make that happen. It's a great deal for Kennewick, which would have the benefit of a refurbished waterfront attraction without the costs of doing it itself.

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