City tells feds it won't be using $1.45 million grant intended for Welcome Center park-and-ride

By Kevin Hanson


Enumclaw has told the federal government it won’t be using a $1.425 million grant that was to fund one element of its long-planned Welcome Center.

The center, viewed as a stopping off point for those heading to Mount Rainier or the Crystal Mountain ski resort, has been in the discussion stage for more than a decade. Along the way, it was proposed that the venue include a park-and-ride facility where visitors could leave their vehicles and be shuttled up the mountain and into the park. The U.S. Forest Service had made clear its goal of reducing automobile emissions in its national parks. The park-and-ride lot was intended for 125 cars.

The city, working with U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, secured the $1.425 million grant to help pay for the park-and-ride lot, which was to be constructed immediately south of the Welcome Center. The center is to be a west-facing, two-story building sitting on land between the city-owned golf course and the Enumclaw Expo Center fieldhouse.

A snag developed late last year when the federal government said the money could not be used as planned, because the city intended to build the lot where an old ballfield now sits. Federal officials noted that both the field and its stone steps have historic and recreational value and should not be removed. That means the grant cannot be used unless plans are changed.

Time is a major factor, as the Federal Transportation Administration grant had to be spent by Sept. 20.

Also a huge stumbling block is the city’s required contribution toward the project. The federal grant required that the city promise $285,000 as its share of the cost. City leaders have admitted that kind of money simply isn’t available during tough economic times.

As a result, members of the City Council voted Feb. 28 to inform the federal government that Enumclaw is going to relinquish the $1.425 million grant.

City officials are emphasizing that just because the park-and-ride lot has been scrapped, the Welcome Center itself is not impacted.

“We still anticipate starting construction this year,” Public Works Director Chris Searcy said. But those plans are a bit shaky, he said, because the Federal Highway Administration has not given  its blessing for the project.

The Welcome Center is viewed as a place where people can gather information about Mount Rainier and the surrounding area. It also will be home to the U.S. Forest Service and National Park Service.

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