Enumclaw Welcome Center takes a step forward

The stone steps  at Pete’s Pools must be preserved due to historical significance if the Welcome Center is built. Kevin Hanson, Courier-Herald - Kevin Hanson, The Courier-Herald
The stone steps at Pete’s Pools must be preserved due to historical significance if the Welcome Center is built. Kevin Hanson, Courier-Herald
— image credit: Kevin Hanson, The Courier-Herald

The long-discussed Enumclaw Welcome Center was back on the city council agenda last week, getting a boost forward as the council tinkered with plans for the facility’s final site.

The Welcome Center – a joint venture between the city, U.S. Forest Service and National Park Service – is to be constructed on city-owned land between the historic Pete’s Pool fieldhouse and the entry road to the Enumclaw Golf Course. Talk of a Welcome Center has dragged for the better part of a decade.

The topic was back on the agenda Sept. 10 because, during the course of review by federal authorities, not everything met the rigorous standards.

Chris Searcy, the city’s public works director, explained the situation.

A final design for the Welcome Center and surrounding grounds had been completed, Searcy said, before things were handed in for federal review. Because federal grant money is being used, he said, the feds get the final say.

Federal agencies, Searcy said, do not like it when anything “of historical or cultural significance” is impacted.

The original plan, Searcy explained, was to use part of the Pete’s Pool grounds for the Welcome Center, including an abandoned baseball field and the stone steps leading to it.

That’s where the feds objected, noting the steps and ball field were built in the 1930s as a Works Progress Administration project. The WPA was created as a response to the Great Depression, a way of putting millions of Americans to work building projects in communities throughout the nation.

The fieldhouse, which still gets plenty of use, was part of the project, as was the football field that remains home to the Enumclaw High football and soccer teams. Federal agencies have ruled the nearby stone steps and weed-infested baseball field “are part of the overall complex,” Searcy said, and must be preserved.

“Each time we think we’ve conquered one element, there are other unknown elements that reveal themselves,” said City Administrator Mike Thomas, when asked for his take on the entire Welcome Center situation.

The good news, Thomas said, is the past year has brought more pores than the 12 months prior.

“It’s been long and kind of cumbersome,” he said of the permitting process, while allowing there is a bit of light at the end of the tunnel.

Making the needed revision to the site plan, he said, will allow the city to finally submit final information to state and federal authorities who are in charge of making a final environmental determination about the Welcome Center.

That, Thomas said, “is actually a huge milestone for this project.”

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