By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News
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Roberta Korcz, assistant Port Angeles city planner, said in an interview that the city has been awarded a $302,400 grant from a state Recreation and Conservation Office — or RCO — program designed to promote public beach access through improvements to a given city’s or county’s aquatic lands.
City planning staffers originally applied for this grant in 2010, Korcz said, and initially were told that the city’s proposed park improvements for the area near the Valley Creek Estuary were not prioritized high enough to receive the funding.
Two years later, RCO officials told Port Angeles planners that other cities whose projects had initially qualified did not use the money in time, meaning it had become available for Port Angeles’ use, Korcz said.
The $302,400 joins a $500,000 state community economic revitalization grant, both of which will be aimed at the first two phases of the city’s $17 million waterfront transportation improvement plan, said Nathan West, the city’s community and economic development director.
The $500,000 will go toward the $3.9 million esplanade project now under way along Railroad Avenue, West said, while the $302,400 will be set aside for work on the $3.2 million West End Park, slated for the waterfront area between North Oak Street and the Valley Creek Estuary.
The city will be putting up $302,400 in matching funds for the RCO grant, Korcz said, while the $500,000 grant requires a 2.5 percent match, or $12,500.
The $500,000 grant also will allow the city to direct some of its own economic development funds, previously prioritized for the esplanade project, to the other project, West said.
“It opens up an opportunity for those [economic development] funds to be provided to West End Park,” West said.
The city is planning to construct the park in stages depending on which portions of the project are the most economically feasible at the time, West explained, with an application for a second $500,000 RCO grant currently in the works.
At full buildout, the park is expected to include a new plaza abutting Oak Street, a gathering area designed around the existing whale vertebra sculpture and the installation of two public beaches separated by a rock-lined jetty.
West said Spokane-based architectural firm Studio Cascade is about halfway done with designs for the park, with the city expecting construction to begin as early as next summer — just when the esplanade construction along Railroad Avenue is expected to wrap up.
City planners are working with Studio Cascade designers to first design those park elements that the city most likely will be able to afford, West said.
On the esplanade — which has Railroad closed at Oak Street — West said construction is on schedule, with all the necessary pile-driving work — the source of the steady banging sound that was emanating throughout downtown about a month ago — finished.
Crews from Primo Construction of Carlsborg are now working to get the so-called “in-water” work west of the MV Coho ferry landing done by Jan. 15 to comply with construction limitations put in place to protect fish species, West explained.
“We have to have everything in that vicinity done by Jan. 15,” he said.
Coho owner Black Ball Ferry Line is simultaneously having improvements constructed to the landing and federal Port of Entry at the foot of Laurel Street, including renovation of the large ferry pier’s west side.
In-water works for the city esplanade describes that which must be done north of the ordinary high-tide mark and includes placing caps on the piles already driven under the water so the esplanade itself can be built on top, West said.
Work to be done after Jan. 15 will include pouring the concrete for the esplanade and boardwalk that will parallel Railroad Avenue, as well as improvements to the surface of the street itself, West said.
Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.