The Tri-Cities is lucky to have a big stretch of riverfront running through our community.
With that natural asset comes opportunity for activities and access for locals and tourists alike along the banks of the Columbia River.
For a long time, our rivershore offered a few parks, a couple of restaurants and not much more -- other than its natural beauty.
But in recent years, the Tri-Cities Rivershore Enhancement Council has worked diligently to increase our options for enjoying the water.
For the past 15 years the group, a program of the Tri-Cities Visitor & Convention Bureau, has ticked away at several projects. Levies have been lowered and a 23-mile trail has been developed. Lights now make the cable bridge a sight to behold each night. And Columbia Park has been the beneficiary of two projects, the Playground of Dreams and the family fishing pond.
Columbia Point has grown up, with Anthony's Restaurant quickly making itself a waterfront mainstay.
The Port of Kennewick has reinvigorated Clover Island, with a lighthouse, walking paths, public art and other new attractions.
The port has much bigger plans in mind, with a complete gentrification of the waterfront from the blue bridge to the cable bridge on the drawing board in the years to come.
And the Rivershore Enhancement Council is working on a2.0 version of its vision for the waterfront, one that would create more activities and brand the Columbia River as central to our community's identity.
In the next phase of its work, the group would like to see a pedestrian walkway across the river, more restaurants, boating events and trails.
The group also would shepherd rivershore preservation and guide development and use of the riverfront.
Even though we are blessed with a long river corridor through the heart of our community, it is a finite resource. As the president of the Visitor & Convention Bureau said, "Once it's gone, it's gone."
That's why the council plays such a vital role in the future of our river.
We agree we need more development that takes advantage of the riverfront while preserving its beauty and providing public access.
That takes a keen sense of what the community wants and what will provide an economic benefit through tourism, while honoring the river itself.
The new master plan was developed with the help of a Portland consulting firm, and the group quickly acknowledges that some of the ideas may be more parts dream than reality.
A pedestrian bridge across the river, for example, would be quite a feat, as would finding the funding in this economic climate to lower the levies between roads 54 and 70 in Pasco.
But other items are more accessible and the group expects to start with a project that will take a couple of years -- installing better signs to guide folks to and from the waterfront.
Access to the trail would be highlighted with signs as would ways to walk, bike or drive from the trail to business districts and other attractions away from the water. A trail guide would be included.
One thing missing from the plan we have heard so far is some strategically placed public restrooms along the trail.
Of course, even the most realistic of the goals in the new master plan will require money. The group expects that cash to come from a variety of sources, including grants, sponsorships and area governments. Volunteers and service groups likely will help as well.
We long have thought our waterfront was one of the most underutilized in the Northwest. The projects accomplished in the past 15 years and the plans laid forth for the years ahead will make our rivershore a much more vibrant place.