News

Welcome Center is expected by 2009

By Kevin Hanson-The Courier-Herald

Development of a multi-use Welcome Center, viewed as an essential stopping-off point for visitors on their way to Mount Rainier, has long been on the “wish list” of several local agencies.

Progress has been slow, primarily due to the ongoing hunt for governmental grant money, but it now appears the effort is gaining momentum. In fact, the word from Enumclaw City Hall is that the multi-jurisdictional center is chugging along and should be completed in two years.

“We're on a fast track to get it built,” Enumclaw City Administrator Mark Bauer said.

His comments came a day after members of the Enumclaw City Council authorized a $145,000 contract with Otak Inc. for the design of the building.

It's estimated the facility, which will house the U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service and the Enumclaw Chamber of Commerce, will cover about 7,000 square feet. It will be built on city-owned property between the Expo Center fieldhouse (Pete's Pool) and the entrance to the golf course.

The Welcome Center partners had long hoped to put the facility a bit closer to town, on land near state Route 410 and Watson Street, but grant money for land acquisition wasn't in the cards.

Presently, the city, as the lead agency and ultimate owner of the building, has secured $3.6 million in grants. That sum, according to Mayor John Wise, will take care of construction costs and a paved parking lot that will serve the needs of both the Welcome Center and the fieldhouse.

Money is still lacking for development of a proposed transit center, which would allow vendors to shuttle visitors to Mount Rainier National Park on guided tours. Wise said the city has requested money from the U.S. Department of the Interior to handle that phase of the development, but nothing has happened on that front. He's hoping the beginning of construction will provide the impetus for either federal or state funding, however.

Kevin Hanson can be reached at khanson@courierherald.com.

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