Cities want Reach center as focus of Columbia Park West

Kennewick and Richland have agreed what Columbia Park West could look like if money can be found for a makeover of a one-mile stretch of riverfront.

The plan, which was more than a year in discussion by a community resource team guided by a consultant calls for the Hanford Reach Interpretive Center to be the main attraction for the 146-acre park that stretches west from Edison Street to the Bateman Island boat launch and marina just east of Columbia Center Boulevard.

"We are done with the planning. The next step is implementation," said Bill King, Richland's deputy city manager.

The Reach center came into the discussion rather late in the 18-month process, but was strongly endorsed by the community resource team. King said adding the center could give the project the boost it needs.

"We are working on the Reach portion right now. The Richland Public Facilities District has decided that is their preferred location. They are working with the Army Corps of Engineers now, doing the environmental studies," King said.

Whatever happens in Columbia Park West must have approval of the Corps, which owns the land and leases it to the two cities for recreational purposes. The master plan also must satisfy the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, which have cultural interests in the property that are protected under federal law.

The master plan follows a year of conducting committee meetings, community forums and online surveys to determine what the public would like to have in a redesigned park.

The public preferred a total realignment of Columbia Park Trail, moving it away from the river, and a mix of passive recreational sites, including more nature trails, picnicking area, an environmental playground and a community orchard.

Other features would include more access to the water, including a beach, a multipurpose performance venue and possibly a transportation museum or performing arts center or carousel building.

The Kiwanis building, a disc golf course and ropes course would further complement the park's west end, according to the plan.

King noted that the master plan is a long-range concept, which will take years to complete. " There is not much grant money available right now, but that could change in half a dozen years. There will be opportunities that come along," he said.

Having the interpretative center involved early on will help champion the plan, King said.

"The important thing is we are all in agreement about where we are going with it," he said.

The master plan can be viewed at http://richlandparksandrec.com. Click on "What's Up" and then "Park Projects" and "Columbia Park West Master Plan."