ABERDEEN – Imagine walking or biking along the waterfront of the Chehalis River from the mouth of the Wishkah River almost to Aberdeen’s K Street. Stop at Nirvana Plaza. Then head west along a riverside promenade cupped by a great lawn and forest grove.
Dip down to the beach to watch the tides, play on make-believe ships, explore Aberdeen’s logging and cannery past, or climb to the top of a tower and gawk at Grays Harbor. The sounds of a concert fill the air.
Welcome to “the first concept of stage one” of a public waterfront park for Aberdeen. Though the land is still in private hands, Cary Bozeman, a consultant hired by the city of Aberdeen, and Gary Sexton, who works with Bozeman and worked on Bremerton’s waterfront park, arranged to have design firms Break Urban and Walker Macy create a public design concept.
Bozeman estimates the park could take just two years to create, but the entire plan they are working on could take 20 years. “I am a firm believer in moving forward,” he told the Aberdeen Planning Commission and spectators last week.
Missing from the equation so far is how the projects will be paid for and what combination of public and private money will be available.
Connecting the city to the water is top on the list of six goals set by the City Council.
The concept presented included tall trees and lights, with beach lanterns along the Chehalis Bridge and the viewing tower. Some lights would be beamed into the sky. A proposed visitor center at the entrance of town would sport beams to play off the Wishkah Bridge. Mature trees would flank two entrances to the waterfront along F and H Streets.
The shoreline promenade would be made of local wood. A mill plaza and artifacts — even old growth stumps — hark to the “Aberdeen Lumber Capital of the World” of the 1920s. Under the bridge would be a homage to Aberdeen’s cannery past.
One complication: The beach requires substantial and expensive remediation by the Department of Ecology. Pilings would have to be removed, and the tidal shore might have to be reinforced.
Pedestrians also would have to cross over the railroad tracks as they do in some routes to reach Seattle’s Safeco Field, Bozeman and Aberdeen City Councilman Alan Richrod said. But eventually, a pedestrian bridge might be constructed.
In his mind’s eye, Bozeman sees bars, restaurants, art galleries and a microbrewery in a designated historic district.
Dropped for now is a waterfront farmers market, touted by Bozeman previously.
Bozeman and Scott declined to be specific about any offers being made to owners of the land the city wants to develop, such as Earl Whiting, who owns 6 acres comprising the bulk of the land that could make up a park. Whiting’s land is for sale.
Waterfront property projects are few and far between in Aberdeen.
What Bozeman proposes could happen parallel to hoped-for development at Seaport Landing across the Chehalis in South Aberdeen. The Grays Harbor Historical Seaport Authority owns the land on the south side and has discussed developing kayak and small boat launches.
The Bozeman Group has partnered with the Aberdeen Revitalization Movement to enact the plans and are already taking in private funds to match the $60,000 in public funding the city awarded them.