PUD Builds Trailhead/Parking Lot

Project Is Part of an Agreement with the Port of The Dalles

River Trail Way
Northern Wasco County PUD built a trailhead and parking lot on River Trail Way as a community project in lieu of exchanging cash for land to build the River Trail subdivision. Google, left, Bonneville Power Administration substation, center, and the PUD’s substation, right, are seen in the background. Kathy Ursprung photo

Take a stroll or a bike ride on the Riverfront trail and you’ll notice something new just north of the bridge at Chenoweth Creek.

A new parking lot and trailhead at the entrance of the Columbia Gorge Industrial Center is the work of Northern Wasco County PUD. It’s the result of a public partnership between the PUD and the Port of The Dalles, connected with the land purchase for River Trail Substation, just down the road.

“Under that property sale agreement, we provided consideration in the form of beneficial public improvements to the property in the Columbia Gorge Industrial Center,” says Kurt Conger, PUD Assistant Manager and Director of Power Resources.

In addition to the new trailhead parking lot, the PUD agreed to remediate property known as “Tract B” adjacent to the substation, which is just beneath the transmission lines that cross Chenoweth Creek.

“A lot of I-84 had been dumped into a depression on Tract B,” Kurt says. “There is a lot of concrete and rebar under the transmission lines.” Filling dirt, grading, and leveling have greatly improved the appearance of that site.

The trailhead was originally intended for Tract B, but cost and safety concerns led the PUD to abandon that plan.

“There is a 35-foot elevation difference from street level down to Riverfront Trail,” Kurt explains. “For a less than 5 percent grade, we would have needed 700 feet of paved trail and it became a very serpentine trail. We had concerns about wheelchairs flying off hairpin turns so under the advice of counsel we abandoned that idea.”

The $300,000 price tag for building such a trail was another factor against the plan. Instead, Tract B now provides access to the substation.

“We also needed it to put what we call ‘feeder getaways’ from the River Trail Substation,” Kurt says. “They are what you use to get power out of the substation and onto your distribution system.”

The site has also had hydroseeding and other measures to prevent erosion.

The triangular-shaped Tract A, at the entrance to the industrial area, was a better trailhead site for a couple of reasons. First, the grade to the trail is only 2-3 percent. Second, constructing needed improvements was much more affordable.

Kurt Conger
Hydroseeding and “wattles,” long earth-filled tubes aid in preventing erosion on this steep slope just below the PUD’s River Trail Substation. Kurt Conger photo

Kurt coordinated with representatives of Riverfront Trail, Inc., and Northern Wasco County Parks and Recreation District to make sure the site met trail users’ needs. The site doesn’t have water or restrooms, but Google has installed a watering station not far to the north, adjacent to their Taylor Lake development that includes a dog-watering option, a bottle filler, and a water fountain. Klindt Cove Kiwanis Park, not far to the south, has both water and restrooms.

Paving designed by Summit Engineering and built by Crestline Construction is complete and the parking lot now provides handicapped accessible parking, a Fixation Station for working on bicycles, and a tie-in to the trail.

The project’s crowning glory will be the addition of native plants. Planting will take place on October 8, during the PUD’s second annual Volunteer Day (see related story). The planting will include three or four ponderosa pine, native shrubbery, spreading plants, and grass. Humble Roots Nursery in Mosier provides native plants.

“I really think it is really going to pop,” Kurt says.

PUD Employees Plan Volunteer Day October 8

When Northern Wasco County PUD’s Volunteer Day returns on October 8 for its second year, employees will tackle three big projects.

Planting at the PUD’s new parking lot and trailhead on River Trail Way, waterproofing wood structures at Sorosis Park, and painting the exterior of Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore.

“There are fewer projects this year, but they’re bigger and I think they will have a higher impact than the stuff we did last year,” says Travis Hardy, Energy Management Specialist. He and Amy Augustus, Accounting Analyst, are coordinating the event.

At the trailhead, PUD volunteers will add 446 plants.

“It was quite the order process,” says Amy Augustus.

The PUD has invited people from Riverfront Trail, Inc., Northern Wasco County Parks & Recreation District, and Port of The Dalles to join in the planting party, but the main workforce for all of the projects will be PUD employees. All employees are participating in the day, including those from the main office, The Dalles Dam hydro plant, and the McNary Dam hydro plant. This annual event gives PUD employees the chance to work alongside people they might not usually work with.

For the second project, the PUD will be teaming with Parks and Recreation for structure preservation at Sorosis Park.

“All of the wood: The playground, benches, tables, all the structures, need to be water sealed,” Amy says. “Scott [Baker, Parks District Executive Director] doesn’t think we are going to be finished in a day, but we are determined.”

The PUD will have 20 people each at both the trailhead and the park.

Another dozen employees will work on painting the ReStore. They also helped the ReStore last year with major clean-up and reorganization.

“The ReStore touches so many different people in the community and they do so much that were are going to go ahead and help again this year,” Amy says.

Travis urges other organizations to put their names in for help during the 2019 Volunteer Day. They are looking for organizations that have a big impact on the community, and they don’t necessarily have to be nonprofits.

“We’re pretty open to a lot of ideas,” he says.

Volunteer Day started with a discussion between Travis and Amy about working at the Community Thanksgiving Dinner.

“The PUD got wind of what we were doing and said, ‘Let’s make this a company-wide thing,’” Travis adds.

They picked Columbus Day (October 8 this year) because many public agencies are closed so PUD customers assume the PUD is, too.

The event also coincides with Public Power Week, a national event that recognizes pubic power and its contribution to the community.