Wilkeson earns 2013 Smart Communities award

A unique approach to planning for small towns has landed the town of Wilkeson a 2013 Smart Communities award from Washington Gov. Jay Inslee. Heralding their leaders for smart growth planning and contributing to our state’s quality of life, Wilkeson was recognized specifically for its Rural Town Center Corridor Plan.

The corridor plan provides a comprehensive transportation system all along state Route 165 through the town. This route for vehicular traffic also serves as the town's “main street” and serves as a living example of the historic coal towns that once boomed in the area.

“While the corridor plan addresses transportation needs through the town center, we were also able to incorporate other elements important to our community,” Mayor Donna Hogerhuis said. She noted such integral items as preservation of the town’s heritage, improved safety for children walking to school, public access to Wilkeson Creek and creation of a continuous pedestrian and bicycle pathway through town. Those items, she said, should support economic development by providing better access, parking and circulation for city businesses.

The Smart Vision Award praised Wilkeson for providing an innovative planning model for other communities, using meaningful public participation, and advancing Inslee’s Working Washington Agenda.

The plan, recently completed by SCJ Alliance, involved extensive public outreach, close coordination with local businesses and the National Park Service, and refinement of many concepts. Project partner RWD Landscape Architect created before-and-after renderings which brought the project to life for citizens and stimulated public participation at open houses, community gatherings and council meetings.

Six distinct elements combine to create the corridor plan. Each may be constructed independently, yet all elements work together to improve vehicle and pedestrian safety, community connectivity and stormwater facilities. This planning approach provides flexibility in pursuit of funding opportunities, both public and private. The strategy has already proven successful with more than 50 percent of the plan funded for design and construction.

The Wilkeson corridor planning process was funded through Puget Sound Regional Council's Rural Town Corridors program with a local match from the town. The state's Department of Transportation served as the sponsoring agency.

The pedestrian and bicycle facilities along SR 165 will also benefit regional biking/hiking enthusiasts who use the Foothills Trail. The corridor plan enhances an important connection through the gateway community into the park and other recreational areas.

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