City of Washougal undergoes face-lift

By Ray Legendre, Columbian staff writer

Published:

 
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Washougal

• Population: 14,095.

• Must see: Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge, Parker’s Landing Historical Park, Capt. William Clark Park at Cottonwood Beach.

• Website: http://www.cityofwashougal.us.

Portrait

For more information on life in Clark County, visit www.columbian.com/portrait.

Those developments plus economic and public safety partnerships with neighboring Camas have Washougal leaders excited about the future.

“We have been very, very fortunate and are being very cautious as we continue forward,” Mayor Sean Guard wrote in an email.

Washougal finished its $6.8 million E Street project in 2011. Reducing the four-lane E Street to three lanes — one lane each direction and a continuous left-turn lane — from Sixth Street to 32nd Street will reduce traffic congestion at a busy intersection, officials said.

Work began in June 2011 on the $57 million Camas-Washougal widening and interchange project. The highway’s upgrades are expected to be completed either this fall or early 2013. A 2005 gas tax is paying for the project.

Washougal made two key partnerships with Camas in 2011 that could have far-reaching effects into the foreseeable future.

The Camas-Washougal Economic Development Association formed in June. CWEDA, as it is known, is expected to expand existing businesses and bring new jobs and businesses to the east Clark County area. Paul Dennis heads the new enterprise.

Also in 2011, Camas and Washougal’s fire departments entered into a temporary six-month merger for the first time. They merged to combat a six-figure EMS budget shortage that threatened to negatively impact EMS services in both cities, plus residents in nearby unincorporated areas served by East County Fire and Rescue.

Washougal has also completed numerous outdoor improvement projects in recent years.

In August 2010, the city celebrated the opening of a pedestrian tunnel beneath state Highway 14. The nearly $3 million project includes a concrete tunnel with interior in-ground lighting, new street lighting, video surveillance at each end of the tunnel and a stairway and asphalt pathway connecting the tunnel to the existing trail on top of the dike. The trail leads to Captain William Clark Park and Steamboat Landing Park.

Other outdoor improvement projects in recent years include a $1.7 million makeover of Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge to make it as enticing to humans as it is to thousands of waterfowl, throngs of wildlife and more than 200 bird species. The makeover included a parking lot for 20 cars, toilets and a 2-mile trail with an informational kiosk, observation platforms and a 110-foot-long bridge spanning Gibbons Creek. The refuge’s grand opening was in June 2009.

In the past decade, the city’s population has nearly doubled to 14,095, and city officials annexed nearly 2,000 acres to the north, making space for hillside subdivisions.