Port of Benton commissioners unanimously approve Crow Butte Park update

Kristi Pihl, Tri-City HeraldMarch 19, 2014 

crow butte panorama

Crow Butte Park, a 275-acre facility on a 1,500-acre island on the Columbia River, includes camping and day use areas and a boat launch. The Port of Benton took control of the former state park in 2007.

FILE — Tri-City Herald Buy Photo

A wish list for Crow Butte Park near Paterson includes a new playground, expanding the popular RV campsite and adding more boat slips.

Port of Benton commissioners unanimously approved an update to the park's 20-year master plan Wednesday.

The plan includes up to $3.9 million worth of projects. Consultant George Reynolds with Riedesel Engineering told commissioners the proposed capital improvement plan is doable, but dependent on available funding.

"It's going to happen at its own timeline," he said.

The park, which is on a 1,500-acre island in the Columbia River 12 miles west of Paterson on Highway 14, features a campground with about 54 RV spaces that are full most of the summer. The RVs can hook up to electricity, sewer and water. There is also a swimming area and a marina.

Suggested capital projects are based on input the port has received from park users, particularly from online surveys, said Scott Keller, the port's executive director.

Requested improvements include boat basin slips, playground equipment, fire pits in the RV camp area and a marina restroom, according to the master plan. The port already is working on some of those requests.

Construction began earlier this year on 12 new boat slips, widening the boat launch and adding a fish-cleaning station and restrooms at Crow Butte Park marina. The $720,000 project is completely covered by a state grant. Most of the work will be done by the end of the month.

The park opened to the public last weekend, Keller said. It's 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.

Projects that could occur in the future include expanding RV parking near the marina and extending the swimming beach, Reynolds said.

Also included in the updated plan are self-service laundry to the RV restroom, more boat slips, fire pits at the RV campsites and a multi-use paved pathway.

The facilities were in poor condition when the port took over management of the park in 2007, Keller said.

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.

"We've done a lot of deferred maintenance catch-up in the last five years," Keller said.

As improvements are made to the park, the port hopefully will see revenue grow with more use, Keller said. The port receives about $100,000 to $150,000 a year in revenue from the park.

The port budgeted about $12,000 for the master plan update, Keller said.

-- Kristi Pihl: 582-1512; kpihl@tricityherald.com

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