Amon Creek agreements signed —

Amon Creek agreements signed

By Annette Cary; March 20, 2007 © Tri-City Herald

Sixty acres surrounding the little creek that flows through south Richland is to become a public wildlands park by the end of the month.

The Amon Creek area has been targeted for development. But at least a portion of the Amon Basin will be saved for hikers, mountain bikers and horseback riders to enjoy the creek and nearby sagebrush and watch for birds, beaver, deer and coyotes.

Tapteal Greenway Association has been working for three years to save the Amon Basin from being covered with houses, condominiums and roads as building booms in south Richland.

"A group of citizens saw something really valuable," said Scott Woodward, president of Tapteal Greenway Association.

The group pulled together a patchwork of grants, donations and city money to purchase the land. Last week, five agencies involved in the deal signed agreements to proceed with the sale.

The land that will be purchased is just east of Leslie Road along the west Fork of Amon Creek, and extends from the Lorayne J. Boulevard area on the south to the Center Boulevard area in the Willowbrook neighborhood to the north.

The creek, a tributary of the Yakima River, is home to salmon that return to spawn and beavers that have built dams along its length. Whitetailed and mule deer occasionally pass through, and the Lower Columbia Basin Audubon Society has identified more than 100 species of birds in the area.

The Washington State Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council provided a little more than $1 million for the purchase. The state Department of Transportation gave $75,000 to replace wetlands destroyed by the Highway 240 expansion, and Tapteal Greenway Association raised $40,000 in donations.

That left $180,000 needed for the purchase, with the city of Richland planning to pay for $60,000 of that. The city agreed to take the remaining $120,000 out of the general fund to allow the purchase to proceed while Tapteal Greenway Association attempts to raise the remainder to repay the city. Some state Washington Wildlife Recreation Program money also may be available.

With the financial agreements signed and the purchase days away, the real work begins, Woodward said. Tasks range from restoration and public education about use of the land to continuing to raise money and working to expand access to the area and the size of the wildlands park.

The city will own the 60 acres, with Tapteal Greenway Association helping maintain and manage the land, said Bill King, Richland deputy city manager.

A master plan will be created for restoration, likely with some roads replanted and others narrowed into a trail system.

The Trust for Public Land, which negotiated the option to buy the land, will donate $10,000 and the Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council will provide $13,500 for management and stewardship of the site. In addition, REI has donated $5,000 for signs and benches.

The more difficult task may be educating the public about the land, Woodward said. The Amon Basin has been plagued by illegal dumping. The wildlands park also will be closed to motorized vehicles, including the dirt bikes that buzz through the area.

The goal is to make it a nature preserve and save habitat, said Nicole Hill, project manager for The Trust for Public Land.

Tapteal Greenway Association had planned to buy land closer to Claybell Park in the Meadow Springs area off Broadmoor Street, but could not meet the asking price of a Seattle-area developer who owns some of the land. However, Tapteal plans to link the 60 acres with Claybell Park either by easements or eventually purchasing more land.

Richland also plans to buy more land near Claybell Park. Some would be saved for eventual development for recreation, such as ball fields, and some left as wildlands. Both potential expansions might get money from the state's Washington Wildlife Recreation Program.

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