Snoqualmie officials give gateway park plan a go ahead

SNOQUALMIE - The Snoqualmie City Council approved a resolution at its July 26 meeting that will allow the Snoqualmie Valley Rotary Club to build a park that would act as a gateway to historic Snoqualmie.

The park will be called Gateway Park and will be built with funds garnered by the Snoqualmie Valley Rotary Club as part of its parent organization's 100-year anniversary next year.

The land for the park, located at the southeast corner of the State Route 202 and Snoqualmie Parkway, has long been preserved from development as part of the Snoqualmie Preservation Initiative. It has been used as a Christmas tree lot in the winter and was recently the location of a fireworks stand. Most of the time, however, it has been fenced off to prevent people from getting too close to the Northwest Railway Museum's historic train cars that are located on the site.

Chemicals used on trains in the past have entered the ground on what is now Snoqualmie Parkway, prompting it to be included on a list of confirmed and suspected contaminate sites that was issued by the state Department of Ecology (DOE) last month. DOE spokesman Larry Altose said the site does have a voluntary clean-up plan and that there was work done to clean up the site in 1992. Once a site is cleaned, the owner of the land will send a report to DOE, who can issue a letter stating whether or not any further cleaning needs to be done.

"That [the letter] is sort of the Holy Grail they are looking for," Altose said. "But it is an attainable Holy Grail."

Snoqualmie City Attorney Pat Anderson confirmed that the former owner of the land, PugetWestern, spent more than $1 million to clean up the site. Additionaly, the city also received a letter from DOE stating that no further action was asked of PugetWestern, Anderson said.

Now that the city and Rotary have entered into an memorandum of understanding, the Rotary club will be working to raise the needed funds for the park.

Rotary member Charlotte Jacobs said the Rotary hopes to break ground by the end of August on the $1.5-million park in hopes of getting as much done as possible by the official Rotary centennial next February.

The first event will be a dinner train on Aug. 20. The Rotary is applying for a nonprofit status to take donations and has already secured some in-kind donations, such as the architecture work done by ESM Consulting Engineers.

Plans call for a design that will bring together several organizations in the area, including the city of Snoqualmie, the Snoqualmie Valley Chamber of Commerce, the Northwest Railway Museum and the Snoqualmie Valley Venturing Crew, a Boy Scout group that will contribute to the construction and care taking of the park.

The land will still leave a space for the tree sale, but the rest will have landscaping added to hide the existing railroad control box. Trees and shrubs will be planted at the site, which will have parking for cars and RVs, a bathroom and a small amphitheater.

The Northwest Railway Museum will extend its track westward onto the property where it will place a restored engine. At the end of the track, the Snoqualmie Valley Chamber of Commerce plans to set up a restored caboose as a visitor's center.

A trail head will be located at the site with the hopes of connecting it eventually with the Snoqualmie Valley Trail.

Funding for the park's construction is still being worked out by the Rotary, but Snoqualmie Parks Director Al Frank said the city would pay for maintenance of the park once it is completed.

"It is great that Rotary is doing this," Frank said.

* For information on how to help Snoqualmie Valley Rotary or to inquire about the dinner train, contact Charlotte Jacobs at (425) 831-1761.

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