Work begins on Crow Butte Park

By Kristi Pihl, Tri-City HeraldJanuary 2, 2014 

A well-loved park near Paterson will get marina improvements before opening to visitors this spring.

Port of Benton commissioners Thursday unanimously approved hiring Wesslen Construction of Spokane to build 10 new boat slips, widen the boat launch and add a fish-cleaning station and restrooms at Crow Butte Park marina for $720,000.

Time is of the essence, because all of the work in the Columbia River must be finished by the end of February dbecasue of regulatory permits, said Scott Keller, the port's executive director. He expects to see construction begin soon.

Construction costs will be covered by an $800,000 state grant. The remainder of the grant will pay for $80,000 in engineering work by Riedesel Engineering, Inc. of Richland, Keller said.

Port officials have been working on the project for about two years. Keller said it's taken time to get all of the permits in place.

Crow Butte features a campground with about 54 RV spaces that are full most of the summer, Keller said. The RVs can hook up to electricity, sewer and water.

The park is on a 1,500-acre island in the Columbia River, 12 miles west of Paterson on Highway 14.

The fish-cleaning station and the restrooms near the marina will be completely new, he said, and meet the accessibility guidelines of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The park is open March 15 through Oct. 31, with the exception of the boat ramps, which are open year-round. Port officials are considering keeping it open longer because of public interest, Keller said.

The port is also adding a new covered gazebo to the day use area, Keller said. The concrete has been poured, and the gazebo should be installed this spring.

Donations from the Horse Heaven Hills Wine Growers went to the gazebo, Keller said.

The campground had 4,600 visitors in 2012, according to port records. The day use and picnic area had 1,115 visitors, while the boat launch had 1,875 visitors. Final 2013 numbers are not available yet.

Port officials plan to continue to look for grants to improve the park, Keller said. Once the capital projects are done, the park will be close to breaking even.

The port took over management of the park in 2007. The state built the park on Army Corps of Engineers land about 35 years ago, but in 2002 announced that it would let the lease lapse to save money.

A volunteer group of farmers formed the Crow Butte Association and took over park operation in 2003, but struggled financially. The association convinced Benton County to take over the lease in hopes it could then apply for grants.

Annual boat launch passes for 2014 are available now for Crow Butte. To get a pass, mail a $50 check to Crow Butte Park, P.O. Box 67, Paterson, WA 99345. Include name of the recipient, mailing address and vehicle license plate it will be used for. The pass will be mailed back. Passes are also available at the park, but visitors should call 509-875-2644 first before making the trip.

w Kristi Pihl: 582-1512;

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