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Dunn told of local needs at Enumclaw gathering

By Brenda Sexton, The Courier-Herald

U.S. Rep. Jennifer Dunn breezed through Enumclaw the morning of Feb. 18 to catch up with local representatives before heading to Washington, D.C., for the start of another session of Congress.

Wednesday's regular Gateway Communities Project round table discussion at the KeyBank community room will be one of Dunn's last before she leaves office. Dunn, an 8th District Republican, recently announced she will not seek re-election in November. She plans to schedule one more Gateway Communities Project round table meeting before she leaves office.

Dunn began the round table discussions 11 years ago when she was elected to Congress as a forum to gather information in a short amount of time and keep abreast of the needs of the communities that make up the entrances to Mount Rainier National Park.

Wednesday's meeting included representatives from Enumclaw, Buckley and Greenwater, as well as representatives from the U.S. Forest Service, Mount Rainier National Park, Pierce County tourism committee, Crystal Mountain, Chinook Scenic Byways, Washington State Parks and the Washington Department of Transportation.

One of the top topics on Dunn's list - and a favorite of many of those present - was the Mount Rainier Boundary Project, which involves the purchase of land outside the Wilkeson and Carbonado areas and saving a popular campground in the Carbon River area of the park. It is Dunn and her staff's goal to have that project rolling this year.

Another popular topic was the Enumclaw Welcome Center, a project for which Dunn helped secure $1.2 million. The center is planned for property off state Route 410 in Enumclaw.

Mayor John Wise told Dunn approximately $4 million more is needed to make the multi-agency project happen. City Administrator Mike Bauer added that none of the agencies involved wants to launch the project with debt. Wise called the Welcome Center a driving force for the community's economy. He also informed Dunn that the city is working on a tourism plan that will include a marketing strategy to take advantage of the 2 million visitors who go through Enumclaw on their way to the mountains.

Enumclaw Area Chamber of Commerce Director Cathy Rigg also noted for Dunn, chamber membership is up 25 percent and approximately 20,000 visitors dropped by the chamber office for information last year.

Buckley representatives Mayor John Blanusa and City Administrator Dave Schmidt quickly updated Dunn on projects and concerns in their community. Dunn was particularly interested in the Buckley Youth Center, which she had a hand in securing $202,500 in funding. Schmidt said the center is in the design phase.

Buckley officials also updated Dunn on the Ryan Road water main project. And both Enumclaw and Buckley officials noted their cities could use help with sewer projects.

Another topic of discussion was a $99,000 grant to the town of South Prairie for its wastewater treatment center.

Bryan Bowden, community planner for Mount Rainier National Park, said he is working with Wilkeson, Carbonado, South Prairie, Orting and Buckley to create a more appealing and viable entrance to the Carbon River portion of the park.

Enumclaw attorney Trip Hart, representing the Chinook Scenic Byway, told Dunn his group is working on a Web site and brochure to bring more notoriety to the popular road and, in turn, bring more people through Enumclaw. He also said Enumclaw has started a trails coalition.

Shawn Doty of Washington State Parks said her group is updating and renovating the visitor center at Federation Forest with an $80,000 grant.

Steve Johnson from the Forest Service said his group will re-evaluate its Christmas tree program. The current crop of trees available for cutting are getting too large. Last year, he said, the Forest Service sold nearly 4,000 tags. The popular program could use revamping.

Diane Gebinini, representing Greenwater, told Dunn her community needs water and has lined up a $90,000 grant to start work, but could use more help.

Brenda Sexton can be reached at bsexton@courierherald.com

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