A $750,000 grant, announced Thursday, will help the city of Vancouver start work on the extension of the Waterfront Renaissance Trail and Waterfront Park.
The Federal Highway Administration Transportation, Community and System Preservation Program grant will be used to extend the city’s most popular trail about a half-mile westward from the Interstate 5 Bridge along the downtown waterfront.
Vancouver-Clark Parks & Recreation Planner Jean Akers said the grant was “great news” and will add to a $1 million state grant awarded to the project earlier this year.
The grant money won’t fully cover the cost of building the trail and the park — design, permitting and construction along the Columbia River is costly and takes time.
“This is a huge project, and it will take time,” Akers said, adding the city will phase the park and trail work as money comes in. “We’re not in a situation where we’re flush with lots of capital dollars.”
The trail route and park are at about 30 percent of total design, meaning that initial permitting work and other measures are being done. In an ideal world, some of the park features could be open to the public in two years, Akers said. The city doesn’t yet have a full cost estimate, but it will be expensive, she said.
“We’re radically altering the existing conditions on that riverbank,” she said, noting the city must mitigate for endangered species and also navigate tricky permitting to do work along the Columbia River.
The park and trail extension are part of the city’s development agreement with Gramor Development, which has committed to a 32-acre mixed-use redevelopment of the former Boise Cascade industrial site adjacent to downtown Vancouver.
The city’s $44 million project to reconstruct the railway and create road access to the site is under way now.
Vancouver has been studying other riverfront trail projects, including several on Portland’s south waterfront, Akers said.
“The river dynamic is so powerful,” Akers said. “We’re trying to learn from all of these different experiences to find most effective way to extend waterfront trail.”
The grant money — secured by Sen. Patty Murray with support from Sen. Maria Cantwell — cannot be used for repairs on the washed-out portion of trail farther upriver. Akers said it’s more difficult to find grants for repairs than it is to get money for new construction. The washed-out portion of the Waterfront Renaissance Trail, near the Tidewater Cove Condominiums, closed earlier this year and remains fenced off to the public.
Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt thanked Washington’s Senate delegation for their work to get the Federal Highway Administration grant — one of just two awarded in the state — for the trail.
“Senators Murray and Cantwell recognize the significant economic benefit that redevelopment of the waterfront will bring to Vancouver,” Leavitt said in a statement. “The investment of public dollars is expected to leverage more than $1 billion in private development. The waterfront project will create jobs, provide access to the Columbia River and revitalize an area of downtown that will positively impact our community for generations to come.”