Opinion

WALLY'S WORLD: Lot of work brought Chinook Scenic Byway

Once upon a time, way back in the early 1980s, Doug Williams of Whistling Jack’s fame, Bob Grubb of Greenwater and Jeanne Lyman of Crystal Mountain, along with two or three of their associates, sat down over coffee or beers and decided many tourist attractions around Mount Rainier could use a little promotion. They felt their regions possessed attractions that weren’t being fully exploited, especially the historic and scenic sights along state Route 410. They vowed to do something about it.

One or two years later a bunch of Greenwater and Crystal Mountain residents started a group called The Friends of Upper White River. Who knows what they produced? (I suppose somebody does.) Perhaps a brochure or two. Maybe an advertisement in local newspapers.

Anyway, during the next 30 years, this handful of Friends, from both sides of Chinook Pass, has grown far beyond anything they could have imagined. It’s evolved into an organization that boasts 40 to 50 affiliates and a 13-member board of directors that’s chaired by Enumclaw lawyer Trip Hart.

To say the least, this enterprise has devoted considerable time and energy toward preserving the natural beauty and promoting many projects and towns along SR 410, all the way from Enumclaw to Naches. There were lengthy and intense negotiations for state transportation funds that were used to develop and print maps and create websites and brochures of the communities and state and federal parks and campgrounds. And there were the meetings and work involved in obtaining some $50,000 grants from Housing and Urban Development to explore and develop various projects, from visitor centers to recreation facilities. Of course, there was also the cost of several, extensive environmental impact studies. (You can surely count on that.) There were numerous meetings with state politicians, in particular former Rep. Jennifer Dunn, who was quite instrumental in advancing the various proposals and obtaining funds. And finally, several private businesses were employed for specialized tasks; for example, OTAK (no one seems to know what the letters stand for), a Seattle-based group of design engineers and environmental planners who created and printed maps, guide books, and a couple of 100-page planning and feasibility studies.

I mean, really friends, talk about a first-class, bureaucratic free-for-all!

Perhaps the largest project on the table is Enumclaw’s Welcome Center. After 4 million federal bucks and considerable debate, it’s been decided that the center should be built in front of the Expo Center fieldhouse, bordering the golf course. It would provide comprehensive tourist information not only on Mount Rainier National Park, but on the Enumclaw area and the entire stretch of SR 410 to Naches. It would also have a large parking lot where visitors could leave their cars and take buses to Mount Rainier, which would relieve some of the crowded conditions at Sunrise. Whether this center will ever be constructed is still up in the air because the powers that be, especially the Enumclaw City Council, are still discussing the issue.

So, the friends of the Chinook Scenic Byway have really accomplished quite a lot and we owe them our thanks and a big hug. They’ve developed an attractive website you might want to checkout at chinookscenicbyway.com.

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