Local projects funded as part of state Legislature’s capital budget

Enumclaw’s Mt. Peak fire tower, Rainier School in Buckley, and a skate park in Wilkeson are only some of the projects.

When the final gavel fell and state lawmakers closed the books on their 2019 session, more than $18 million had been earmarked for capital improvement projects throughout the 31st Legislative District.

A number of those appropriations are headed toward the Plateau communities of Enumclaw, Buckley and Wilkeson. Some are aimed making life better through recreational opportunities, while others point to weightier public health concerns.

Legislators this time around were in Olympia for their longer, 105-day session and, when they adjourned April 28, had adopted a two-year capital budget.

Among the unique cash allocations was $381,000 that will go a long way toward returning a fire lookout tower to Enumclaw’s iconic Mount Peak. In recent years, a group of tower fans have mounted a nonprofit, all-volunteer effort to secure funding – and King County approval – to build a new tower on the well known, and greatly used, promontory just south of town.

The project is steeped in history, as the state once employed fire watchers to staff towers throughout the region; the tower atop Mount Peak was easily recognizable, visible for miles around. Lookout towers eventually were taken out of commission and the Mount Peak tower was demolished for safety reasons.

The replacement tower will be for visitors only, not fire-watching.

Keeping recreation in mind, the Legislature directed $258,000 to the city-owned Enumclaw Aquatic Center. The swimming pool is popular, aging and in need of work.

Enthusiasts note that the pool hosts recreational swimmers of all ages, is home to life-saving swim lessons and is used by Enumclaw High’s swimming and water polo programs, along with Special Olympics.

The facility was built in the 1970s as part of King County’s Forward Thrust initiative and shows signs of age. The City Council commissioned studies, heard from a citizen advisory group and recently voted to spend money on the most-needed repairs. The state money will help with repairs that will buy some time until the city determines a long-range plan of action.

Another city-owned facility netting state money is the Enumclaw Expo Center, which will receive $250,000 for roof repairs.

The Expo Center, like the pool, is an aging facility in need of upkeep. Work has been done and more is needed, according to the Enumclaw Expo and Events Association, the nonprofit entity charged with operating the city-owned grounds.

Outdoor enthusiasts will celebrate the Legislature’s decision to dole out a half-million dollars to extend the existing Foothills Trail to Wilkeson, while also allotting $681,000 for land acquisition to expand the boundaries of Flaming Geyser State Park.

On another recreation item – one aimed at perhaps a younger audience – state lawmakers sent $30,000 toward a long-discussed “bacon-and-eggs” skate park in Wilkeson.

Plateau residents who prefer the outdoors won’t have to look too far for three additional projects that received legislative funding. The state approved $309,000 for a mountain bike park in the rapidly-growing Tehaleh community just south of Bonney Lake; $258,000 for the Fennel Creek trailhead in Bonney Lake; and $350,000 for an Allan Yorke Park athletic field with lighting, also in Bonney Lake.

One of the 31st District’s larger allocations, from a financial standpoint, was $1.5 million for the town of Carbonado. The money aims to help the small community protect its source of water. The town of Wilkeson received $36,000 for water protection, as well.

The district’s No. 1 allocation, by far, will benefit Rainier School in Buckley. The Legislature authorized $8 million for cooling upgrades in the cottages that dot the grounds.

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