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Legislature considers extending scenic byway, could aid Enumclaw economy

A pair of bills working their way through Olympia’s legislative chambers would extend the existing Chinook Scenic Byway by four miles, pulling the western edge of the designated roadway downhill to the Enumclaw city limits.

The intent is to officially establish Enumclaw as the “western gateway” to the Chinook Scenic Byway and, in turn, improve the city’s chances of attracting tourist dollars.

The byway is a major piece of state Route 410, beginning four miles east of Enumclaw and ending just a few miles shy of Naches on the east side of the Cascades.

The independent bills have been in the legislative hopper from the start of the current, ongoing session. Senate Bill 5030, pushed primarily by Sen. Pam Roach, easily made its way through the state Senate. On final vote, the bill was supported by 47 senators; only one voted in opposition and one of the 49 was absent. Having passed the Senate, the bill was moved to the House of Representatives for consideration.

At the same time, House Bill 1028 was being touted by state Reps. Christopher Hurse and Cathy Dahlquist. It passed by an 89-9 margin and was forwarded to the Senate.

“The Chinook Scenic Byway has been recognized as one of the most scenic driving tours in the state of Washington,” Roach said. “Even though Enumclaw is home to a number of landmarks along State Route 410, it isn’t yet recognized as a part of the state’s Scenic Highway System.”

Enumclaw Mayor Liz Reynolds is a prime supporter of extending the byway boundary and played an integral role in bringing the issue to the attention of the 31st District’s legislative delegation. Last summer, she wrote to Roach, Hurst and Dahlquist, emphasizing the importance of bringing the Chinook Scenic Byway to Enumclaw’s doorstep.

Such a move, she said at the time, “will bring value added to our community, one more piece of important advertising exposure for Enumclaw.”

The Enumclaw Chamber of Commerce also is excited about the prospect of moving the Chinook Scenic Byway to the city border.

“This will be an important designation for Enumclaw,” said Kelvin Schipper, executive director of the chamber. Passage of the two bills, he said, “means our city would be officially on the map, which we hope would result in a boost in tourism dollars.”

Visitors’ money is especially coveted during times of a stagnant economy. According to documents released by the Washington Tourism Alliance, visitors spent $16.9 billion in Washington in 2012, generating more than $1 billion in local/state tax revenue.

Enumclaw’s proximity to Mount Rainier is promoted both by City Hall and the business community.

The Enumclaw Chamber and Visitor Center leverages its tourism marketing efforts by partnering with Visit Rainier to showcase the city to travelers,” Schipper said, making reference to the nonprofit group that exists solely to market the mountain and its surrounding communities. Schipper added that the Visitor Center is updating its visitor guide and is working with downtown merchants, State Parks, the Chinook Pass Scenic Byway Committee and others to continue promoting Enumclaw.

Between June and August 2012 more than 300 visitors stopped by the Visitor Center on Cole Street to inquire solely about traveling around Enumclaw and the Mount Rainier area, Schipper said.

 

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