The Port of Columbia and the Touchet Valley Trail Steering Committee, in partnership with the National Park Service (NPS) Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance (RTCA) program, will host a design workshop in Waitsburg and Dayton to develop early-stage general design concepts for a non-motorized trail connecting the two towns. Design professionals from the Washington Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects (WASLA) will volunteer their time to facilitate an intensive two-day workshop with community stakeholders on October 25-26. Ten students from Washington State University and two students from University of Washington will also be participating in the design process. “Only one project is chosen each year for this type of NPS/WASLA collaboration,” stated Jennie Dickinson, executive director of the Port of Columbia. “We are very grateful that the proposed Touchet Valley Trail was chosen as this year’s project.”
The process will include site visits on public lands along the proposed trail corridor on Friday, October 25th, a day-long design workshop, or a “charrette,” on Saturday, October 26th, and an opportunity for public participation Saturday at 5:00 pm. The charrette is being coordinated with WSU faculty and offers a unique mentorship and professional development opportunity for landscape architecture students from WSU as a part of their junior level design coursework. WSU and UW students will work alongside landscape architecture professionals and other design team members to help produce an early-stage initial conceptual plan for the Touchet Valley Trail. This plan will provide a reference point as formal surveying and design planning begins later this year.
Feedback from adjacent landowners, from an on-line community survey, and from recent open houses in Waitsburg and Dayton will be shared with the design teams prior to the charrette. Part of their work will include brainstorming solutions to some of the design challenges and concerns raised by community members in the last few months.
The public is invited to attend and participate in the final portion of the workshop on Saturday, October 26th from 5-7 p.m. at the Columbia County Fairgrounds Pavilion. This public portion of the event includes a Design Ideas Presentation by each of the four design teams followed by a sticky dot exercise in which members of the public will be asked to identify which design ideas they think could work best. Community members can also visit with the design teams during the sticky dot exercise, and comments will be recorded for future consideration. Sandwiches will be provided as a light dinner and several door prizes will be awarded at the end of the evening.
NPS RTCA staff work collaboratively with local communities to conserve and enhance special places like the Touchet Valley, as well as identify funding sources, engage the public, and create recreation opportunities. Last year, the NPS’s RTCA program awarded the Port of Columbia County and its cooperating partners a community assistance grant. Rather than provide funds, the grant covers NPS staff time to provide technical assistance to local communities. The partners are utilizing this expertise for public outreach and early-stage conceptual planning for the proposed Touchet Valley Trail.
In 2000, National Park Service and ASLA formalized a partnership to help communities across the nation plan, design, and manage their natural, cultural, and recreation resources. This unique partnership expanded opportunities for ASLA chapters and NPS staff across the country. Dozens of community projects have benefited from this valuable collaboration. “The NPS/ASLA partnership benefits communities in the early stages of projects with the design and problem-solving skills of landscape architects,” said RTCA Community Planner, Alexandra Stone.
The proposed Touchet Valley Trail is a part of the Blue Mountain Region Trails Plan adopted in 2018. It will connect the communities of Waitsburg and Dayton along the existing active rail line owned by the Port of Columbia.
About the Touchet Valley Trail Steering Committee
The Port of Columbia, in collaboration with the National Park Service, has convened a Touchet Valley Trail Steering Committee to help guide the planning process for the proposed trail. The steering committee is comprised of stakeholders for the project. To learn more, visit Port of Columbia.
About Washington — ASLA
The Washington Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects (WASLA) is the professional association for landscape architects in Washington State. Landscape architects are licensed professionals that lead the stewardship, planning, and design of our built and natural environments. WASLA’s mission is to lead, to educate and to participate in the careful stewardship, wise planning and artful design of our cultural and natural environments.
About the National Park Service Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance program
The National Park Service Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance program supports community-led natural resource conservation and outdoor recreation projects across the nation.