A wide range of recreational interests — hiking, biking, picnicking, swimming and boating — meet at the confluence of The Dalles Marina and Riverfront Park. Figuring out how to stretch the Riverfront Trail through that area has been a topic of some discussion as the final leg of the trail enters the engineering process.
At present, the trail spills out into the marina parking lot and about 1½ miles remain to link the trail with the segment at Lone Pine, which means it has to pass through the marina parking lot, beneath the freeway overpass and through the Riverfront Park area.
Getting through the marina parking lot without eating away at parking spaces needed for water users has been an area of concern for marina owners, the Port of The Dalles. Marina parking is often full during the fishing and boating season, of both marina tenants and boat ramp users. Initial plans for reorganizing the parking lot would have cut more spaces.
Dan Durow, who has spearheaded the trail project for 25 years, brought a new proposal to port commission president Bob McFadden and Commissioner Kristy McCavic, a marina tenant, in recent weeks designed to address concerns about the parking issue.
“They’re thinking outside the box a little bit,” said McFadden. “From his preliminary drawing, what he had looked really great. Our big concern down there was losing a lot of parking spaces. Actually [this plan] didn’t show us as a huge loss in parking and appeared to make parking down there work better.”
While discussing the issue at a January port meeting, McFadden reminded the commission that the port has been a partner in the Riverfront Trail from the very beginning, providing easements for trail passage through the riverfront industrial lands.
“We don’t want to lose sight of that,” McFadden said. “Dave Griffith, one of our commissioners, went out and worked really hard on a major part of the fundraising. We want to see it happen and in a way that’s going to work for everybody.”
The port commission won’t be able to accept the new parking arrangement until it has seen engineered drawings of the plan, which should be complete within the next couple of weeks, Durow said.
The proposed parking rearrangement would include travel lanes around the outside of the parking lot and parking in the center, both for vehicles and boat-trailer combination parking.
“The Riverfront Trail would be on the very south side of the parking lot, almost completely within ODOT’s [Oregon Department of Transportation] right-of-way,” Durow said. “It would have zero conflicts with any other uses.
A tunnel beneath the freeway interchange access would link the marina portion of the trail with Riverfront Park, staying along the freeway right-of-way on the south side of that parking lot as well.
The trail would be fenced through the adjacent wilderness area that is designed to protect native species. Though dogs are required to be on leashes on the Riverfront Trail, that rule isn’t always observed. The fence would be designed to protect nesting birds from dog traffic on the trail.
“We’re still just in preliminary engineering,” Durow said. “We’re still working out a lot of the basic issues before we get into the actual design details. We hope to have all of the engineering done before the end of the calendar year.”
Durow is aiming for construction work to occur in the marina area in December, January and February, with fishing and recreational traffic is at its lowest..
“The whole thing should be finished by sometime in the summer of 2015,” he said.
When completed, the trail will be about 10 miles long. The new section will travel through the marina and park, then on to Lone Pine Village and under Highway 197, where it will halt, at least for the time being.
Easement challenges with the Corps of Engineers and the Shilo Inn will prevent the trail from linking to the dam portion of the trail that is already completed. However, those who wish to reach the dam will still have paved access via Bret Clodfelter Way.
To maintain better access to the trail, Northern Wasco County Parks and Recreation is pursuing an extended season at Riverfront Park. At present, the park is closed from Nov. 1 until Memorial Day to keep humans out during the Canada geese nesting season. The park area is a nesting ground for the migratory birds.
The park district has been pursuing a longer open season for the park for a number of years.
“We’ve been denied every time,” said Scott Green, parks district executive director. “But there’s a little different feel this year.”
The agency has indicated it might be more open to the idea of a longer season now, said Green.
Different management at the agency and the newly created wildlife area at Riverfront Park are two circumstances that make the agency more receptive, Green said.
Green plans to begin preparing a permit amendment request with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which issues the park’s operating permit. He hopes to see the park open through the end of November and again in the middle of March during the spring. Fish and Wildlife’s support for the change could have a big impact on its approval, Green said.
The request is of particular interest to the port, because the Riverfront Park parking lot could be used for overflow marina parking. The difference in operating hours between the marina and the park is another challenge, though. While the marina parking lot is open 24 hours, the park is only open from dawn to dusk. The park’s hours are set by district policy.
“Extending our hours may not be in the best interest for us,” Green said, “however, I did talk to them about the possibility, if funds are found, of changing the gate system so boaters can get out after hours, but not in.”