Washougal bustles with new businesses, projects

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian health reporter

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Washougal

Population: 14,340.

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

Website: http://www.cityofwashougal.us

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

One partnership, the Camas-Washougal Economic Development Association, formed in June 2011. CWEDA, as it is known, has already helped to expand existing businesses and bring new jobs and businesses to the east Clark County area. Former Camas Mayor Paul Dennis heads the new enterprise.

Since CWEDA’s creation, Dennis has worked with area developers to usher in numerous new businesses in downtown, at the port and along E Street, a main arterial in the city. Among the businesses new to the city in 2012 are Body Bliss Yoga Studio, Glo Beauty Lounge, Country Financial, Effective Web Solutions and medical billing support company Provider Assistants. Portland-based Amnesia Brewery broke ground in 2012 on its new Washougal location, which is set to open this year.

And more business growth is expected in the future. In 2012, the Port of Camas-Washougal acquired about half of the 26-acre former Hambleton Lumber Co. site. The parcel is on the Columbia River near the border of the cities of Camas and Washougal.

The purchase is part of a larger plan to breathe new life into the waterfront. The redevelopment project could include new restaurants, boutique shops and offices surrounding an anchor tenant. Plans also call for public access to the waterfront, including an extensive trail.

The city’s other key partnership also came in 2011 when 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.

Leaders in both cities extended that merger through 2013, when they will decide whether to pursue a permanent partnership.

Also this year, city and state officials expect work to wrap up on the $57 million Camas-Washougal widening and interchange project. The entire project widens Highway 14 to four lanes from the end of — but not including — the West Camas Slough Bridge through Sixth Street in Washougal. Work began in June 2011.

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 Capt. 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 two-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 October 2012, a wildfire scorched nearly 150 acres of the refuge, including much of the Gibbons Creek bridge. Restoration efforts began in November and will continue throughout this year.