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Wenatchee - Ruling clears path for trail extension despite opposition from orchardists

By Michelle McNiel
Wenatchee World staff writer

November 5, 2006

EAST WENATCHEE -- A long-sought riverfront trail extension north of East Wenatchee got the green light to proceed on Friday.

Douglas County Hearings Examiner Andy Kottkamp approved an application by the state Parks and Recreation Commission to build the 5.1-mile bicycle and pedestrian path on the Douglas County side of the Columbia River.

The trail would link the Apple Capital Recreation Loop Trail with Lincoln Rock State Park. It would be built entirely on public lands owned by the state Department of Transportation and the Chelan County PUD. However, some of the land has been leased for years to orchardists.

The proposal was opposed by orchardists in the Baker Flats area who say they fear the trail would bring an increase of thefts, trespassing, vandalism, liability over spraying and beehives kept near the trail route, and a risk of frost pockets.

Orchardist Jack Feil, who hired an attorney to fight the proposal, could not be reached for comment.

In his written ruling, Kottkamp ruled that the proposal did enough to make up for any potential impacts the trail may have. State Parks has committed to closing the trail during orchard spraying times and patrolling for violators, as well as creating buffers between the trail and orchards and installing fences and gates for farmers.

Kottkamp wrote that during a Sept. 12 public hearing on the proposal, several people testified to the incompatibility between orchard activities and public recreation.

"However, the more convincing testimony leaves the Hearings Examiner to find that orchard activities, pedestrians and bicyclists can co-exist in the same proximity, just as they have for over 100 years," he wrote.

Kottkamp also ordered that the trail and buffers be built to minimize frost pockets in area orchards.

He also wrote that State Parks may -- but won't be required to -- consider a temporary closure of the trail for up to two weeks during peak beehive assembly times.

Kottkamp dismissed concerns raised by orchardists during the Sept. 12 hearing that helicopter spraying would no longer be allowed if the trail is built. He said the proposed trail closures will allow large blocks of time in the morning hours over a three-month period for spraying near the trail.

He also wrote the orchards near the trail could serve as an educational opportunity for the public through the use of interpretive signs.

Washington State Parks has been working on the trail project since 1995. The agency received a shoreline development permit to build the trail from the county in 2004. But the decision was appealed, and a Douglas County Superior Court judge later ruled that State Parks needed a conditional use permit or recreational overlay permit to build the trail.

In his ruling, Kottkamp granted the permit Friday.

Michelle McNiel can be reached at 664-7152 or by e-mail at mcniel@wenworld.com.


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