Port officials get clearer picture of what Willow Grove Park purchase might entail

Bill Wagner,  October 17, 2014, The Daily News


The Port of Longview would undertake up to $600,000 in improvements to Willow Grove Park, but it also may triple the size of a dredge disposal area there if it decides to buy the park from Cowlitz County, according to a study the port released this week.


The three-member port commission will decide Oct. 28 whether to buy the popular park from the county, which officials have said is becoming too costly to maintain.


The port has been considering a purchase in February and has been studying what the 75-acre park needs and how it could be used. The port’s study, discussed at a port commission meeting earlier this week, recommends $592,000 to replace playground equipment and picnic tables, and for fixing sidewalks and making other improvements. The estimate includes a 30 percent contingency for possible unforeseen costs.


The study estimates that annual maintenance of the park will cost about $410,000, a figure that includes $225,000 for staffing to pay a laborer and park ranger (who also would oversee the port’s Barlow Point property). Additionally, the port estimates it would need to spend $255,000 every five years to dredge the basin at the park’s boat launch.


The port would pay these investment and ongoing costs with a mix of grants and port revenues, according to Norm Krehbiel, the port’s chief operating officer,


If it buys the park, the port is considering expanding a seven-acre dredge spoil disposal site to 20 acres. The site is used to dump sand dredged out of the boat launch basin and the Columbia River shipping lanes.


The port needs the sandy material as fill to develop its industrial property at Barlow Point. To attract businesses there, the site must be raised so the land is even with the tops of the dike. Having access to its own dredge material would save the port $10 million over the cost of buying the fill material elsewhere, according to the study, which was done by a consultant.


Expanding the dredge disposal site to 20 acres would obliterate the parking lot at the west end of the park. Port staff said they’d compensate with other amenities, such as building a walking and fishing pier along the river.


At Tuesday’s port commission meeting, Barlow Point-area resident Jeff Wilson asked whether the port is trying to back off its commitment to create public access at Barlow Point by shifting those efforts to Willow Grove Park.


“I want access to Barlow Point as much as we can possibly get,” Port Commissioner Lou Johnson responded.


Wilson also questioned why the port wants to so much at the park, comparing the plan to building the Taj Mahal.


“If we take this park over, we want to do it and do it right,” CEO Geir-Elif Kalhagen responded. “We wanted to create something better for the community.”

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