Richland’s controversial Rachel Road will cross the Amon Creek Natural Preserve at its narrowest point, a bittersweet victory for open space advocates who had hoped for no road in the sensitive area.
This week, the Richland City Council voted unanimously to route the Rachel Road extension from Steptoe Street and Leslie Road in south Richland in a swooping route meant to minimize harm in the area.
The alignment was recommended by a committee of community advocates advised by a consultant hired to help build a consensus on the fractious issue.
Opponents fear the road will damage a rare spot of open space and wildlife habitat while planners say the road is a critical link for growing neighborhoods. Kennewick’s 16th elementary school is already under construction in a zone where the Kennewick school and Richland city boundaries overlap. The school opens in 2018.
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This week’s vote establishes a corridor but there are no immediate plans to actually build the road. A spokeswoman for Richland said the project is not funded or engineered and there is no schedule to do so. Instead, the corridor decision sets the stage to plan for the future, said Hollie Logan.
The approved route crosses the southern tip of the preserve. It was considered one of the least damaging options for the future road.
Karen Sowers, president of Tapteal Greenway, said Amon Basin’s fans will watch future developments to ensure the road’s design and construction doesn’t unduly harm the area.
Tapteal Greenway wants a road designed to minimize the impact on the environment and assurances the future contractors will comply with rules to keep the impact to a minimum, such as the use of silt fences to control runoff.
The area is home to countless bird species, plants and wildlife such as coyotes, raccoons, mink and others, which have been caught on cameras Sowers maintains in the preserve.
“The alignment mitigates as much of the impact as possible,” she said.
We did hear from people and we did try to figure out the best way to go
Terry Christensen, Richland Mayor Pro Tem
Mayor Pro Tem Terry Christensen praised the give-and-take that resulted in a curving route through the area. In the original plan, Rachel Road plowed straight across the preserve with little consideration for the surroundings. He praised the work to develop a consensus and give all sides a voice.
“We did hear from people and we did try to figure out the best way to go,” he said.
Dori Luzzo Gilmour, who is running for re-election, praised the committee, the consultant and the hundreds of residents who turned out for meetings and shaped the final route.
“The least impactful would be (no road) and that’s not a solution,” she said.