A new plan for Tri-City river shores unveiled Friday would create more activities centered along the shorelines, emphasizing the Columbia River as integral to the community's identity.
A pedestrian walkway across the river, more shoreline restaurants, dragon boat events and nature trails are among proposals in the new Tri-Cities Rivershore Master Plan, developed by the Tri-Cities Rivershore Enhancement Council. It's a program of the Tri-Cities Visitor and Convention Center.
The first river shore master plan was created in 1997 and since then a 23-mile trail has been developed, the cable bridge has been lighted and the Playground of Dreams and Family Fishing Pond have been built in Kennewick's Columbia Park.
But 15 years later, it was time to create a second version of the plan, this one with a goal of guiding river shore preservation, development and use during the next decade, according to the council.
"Once it's gone, it's gone," said Kris Watkins, president of the Tri-Cities Visitor and Convention Bureau. But as the Tri-Cities has seen, once the shore line is developed, the land behind it becomes more valuable and more attractive, she said.
The new plan created with the help of MIG, a Portland consulting firm, has proposals that range from immediately doable to long-term wishes.
"A couple things are challenging, like a pedestrian crossing on the railroad bridge" near the cable bridge across the Columbia River, said Lauren Schmitt, a principal with MIG. "That's a big dream."
A plan to lower the remainder of the levee between Roads 54 and 70 in Pasco also would take significant capital and coordination.
Work on the master plan likely will kick off with a two- to three-year project to install a better system of signs to improve the experience of locals and visitors at Tri-City river shores.
It would help guide visitors to places where they can get on the river shore trail. It also will show people using the river shore where they can walk, bike or drive from the trail to reach shopping districts or find restaurants or other places of interest.
The new signs also are planned to help guide them at the river shores, showing where trails lead and where restrooms are, for example.
It's essentially a branding of the river shore trail, Watkins said.
The master plan is a blueprint to create "more energy" along the shoreline, said Gary Crutchfield, Pasco city manager and chairman of the council. The council, sponsored by Bechtel National, includes representatives of the three Tri-Cities; Benton and Franklin counties; and the Benton, Kennewick and Pasco ports.
Ideas to create more energy include developing restaurants, plus events that center on area wines and ag produce, and developing new locations for kayak and bike rentals.
The success of the hydroplane races could be built upon with rowing or dragon boat events, according to the master plan.
A kite event at Columbia Park is a possibility, as are more regional races for runners, walkers, paddlers and bikers.
The trail system could be improved to construct new loops, safer bridge crossings and a Sacagawea Heritage Trail undercrossing beneath the railroad, according to the master plan.
Smartphone tours could be created to highlight Tri-City history, architecture, environment and culture. And a trail exhibit could highlight Big Pasco's working port and businesses.
But the river also should continue to include undeveloped areas, according to the master plan.
The Tri-Cities is unusual in that it has a long river corridor, with agricultural, natural and urban areas, Schmitt said.
"It does not have to be either/or," she said. "They coexist now."
Riverview Park and the Duffy's Pond area could be improved for bird watching, with nature trails added or improved there and at Bateman Island, according to the master plan. The Yakima River Delta would be designated at the environmental center of the Tri-Cities river shore.
Improvements would be paid for by a variety of sources, including grants, corporate sponsorships and local governments. As in the first master plan, volunteers and civic groups could play a major role.
MIG has been paid about $55,000 to date for its work on the master plan by participating agencies, with costs cut about $50,000 because of work done by local government staff to compile information and data for the project, Crutchfield said.
The next step will be rolling out the master plan to cities, counties and ports.