The St. Helens riverwalk project is moving forward.
The St. Helens City Council has approved the riverwalk request for qualifications, allowing architecture and engineering firms to submit their qualifications for the project to be reviewed by the city.
Plans for a riverwalk development have been brewing for years. In 2015 the city purchased 225-acres along the river, including the 22-acre Veneer Property that was once the site of a plywood veneer plant. The Veneer Property is key to the riverwalk project due to its proximity to downtown.
Conceptual plans for the riverwalk includes trails, a new amphitheater and green space. A conceptual plan of what the area may end up looking like was released in May.
Associate planner Jennifer Dimsho clarified that the drawings were conceptual and formal designs will be drawn by the firm selected by the city after receiving qualifications and conducting interviews.
“If there’s a desire to actually incorporate water access for fishing, or a beach is another thing people have mentioned, those things will be brought up through the design process,” Dimsho said.
The riverwalk is part of the city's overall redevelopment along the Columbia River.
Council member Stephen Topaz expressed concern about accessibility to the river, and developments along the riverfront potentially trying to block the project, to which Council member Ginny Carlson clarified that when the riverwalk concept moves forward it will accessible to everyone in the community.
“Every waterfront plan, every park pan, every trail plan that we’ve done in the last three years has been inclusive and equitable,” she said. “Every single new plan going forward will be built with access for all our citizens. Just because you see a picture does not mean thats what were building, because we’re not going to build anything in our community that’s not fully accessible.”
The city’s proposed timeline for the project sets Dec. 8 as the deadline to submit qualifications, with interviews and presentations tentatively scheduled for the second week of January. The contract is expected to be awarded in early February, with design services completed by fall of next year. A construction bid is planned for fall or winter of next year, and completion of construction is expected by January of 2023.
Water work along the river, and any work of this scope, requires several permits which require public comment and input. The project is funded in part by an Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) Land and Water Conservation Fund grant for $500,000. A grant from OPRD Local Government Grant Program for $500,000 is pending review, Dimsho said.
“I’m just excited about the waterfront,” Mayor Rick Scholl said. “The projects there, the grant, and then the public works loan, that we’re able to move forward. Also knowing it’s in our urban renewal as well, that we have many funding mechanisms to move the waterfront forward. It’s actually starting to happen.”
Read a series of articles about the overall riverfront development discussions here online.
In it's Oct. 21 meeting, the city council also:
- Approved a memorandum of understanding with the St. Helens Police Association to amend the portion of the collective bargaining agreement regarding clothing, uniforms and duty weapon.
- Approved a resolution adopting a technology and telework policies at the city.
- Approved a resolution to adopt new policies at the St. Helens Public Library regarding its collection, circulation and confidentiality.