Over-development Threatens Leavenworth’s Quality of Life Adventure Park may be tipping point

 

Creating tourist demand can be a positive marketing scheme that leads to healthy growth of a community, but over-promotion and over-development threaten the quality of life in the upper Wenatchee Valley. We believe Leavenworth is about to reach that tipping point – in which our charming village surrounded by mountains and countryside is adversely impacted.  Some signs of the imbalance include – more houses becoming lodging;  “vacant” land being valued primarily for its development potential; and the city focused on growing the tax base – no matter the cost to residents’ quality of life and the livability of the upper valley.

The Friends of Leavenworth group was recently formalized after a two-year ad hoc attempt by various community members to obtain adequate mitigation of development projects and sensible planning decisions. We believe that Upper Valley residents must have more influence on pivotal city and county decisions. Several proposed projects could have large impacts on our natural landscape, water resources, sewer capacity, noise, aesthetics, and traffic. These include: the Pine Street residential build-out; the residential/commercial development behind Safeway known as Willkommen Village; and the proposed Leavenworth Adventure Park.

The cumulative impacts of these projects on our roads, utilities and natural resources must be considered.

One project of particular concern is the Adventure Park which has recently filed with the City of Leavenworth for its conditional use permit. A public comment period will soon be opened. Concern about this project is extremely high with 6,000 people signing an online petition in opposition to the proposal.

The Adventure Park will include an alpine coaster ride, ziplines, and bungee jumping trampolines. While noise from the coaster itself may be at a reasonable level, the screams of patrons may be heard up to a mile away and will be disruptive to residents in the nearby community, which includes 127 condo units and many houses, all within a quarter mile distance of the site. The park will operate 12 hours every day from June through October. Operating hours from November through May will be 8 hours a day on weekends and holidays. Traffic in the intersection of Highway 2 will be increased by 60 to 80 additional cars an hour going to or from the Adventure Park.  This additional traffic will cause backups on Highway 2 west bound and on Icicle Road north bound. During weekends and festivals, this is already a congested intersection. Project developers expect the park to receive100,000 visitors annually.

As development demands gain momentum and impending decisions pile up, it might be time for the City and County to gently apply the brakes. Otherwise, we could blunder onto the path so many other tourist-oriented communities have taken, such as Gatlinburg TN, where visitors now comment that, “unbridled growth and commercialization” is dissuading them from visiting.

So now is the time to shake off apathy and help guide our decision-makers into a more proactive, thoughtful future. We welcome your participation as we work with the City and County to help forge solutions to the very real issues facing us.  Please visit our website at www.friendsofleavenworth.org to learn more.The Steering Committee for the Friends of Leavenworth, Duane Goehner, Betsy Steele, Alan Hunt, Chris Clark, Sharon Ruffer, Peter Keenan, Kirvil Skinnarland, and Zeke Reister.

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