The Horan Natural Area (HNA) provides valuable bird and wildlife habitat on the Wenatchee River delta. Situated within the City of Wenatchee, the area supports a wide range of recreational uses while connecting parks to the north and south. The North Central Washington Audubon Society (NCWAS) places high value on the Horan Natural Area and encourages enhancements in the area.
The HNA is an important part of the Apple Capital Loop Trail. Surrounded by world-class public parks, the Horan area offers a unique sense of wildness. The future of the area is part of ongoing planning processes by both the city and Chelan County PUD.
A Short History and Use
Historically, the Horan area was home to P’squosa/Wenatchi/Wenatchapum native peoples. It was a well-known regional council grounds, an important gathering place for bands and tribes throughout the Pacific Northwest. Oral traditions describe horse races, extensive trading and bartering bringing people and communities together.
In 1872, Sam Miller began operating a trading post at the site. In contemporary times, the Horan supported a pear orchard and two KPQ radio towers. Rock Island Dam was constructed in 1933 and currently inundates much of the Wenatchee River delta.
The Chelan PUD purchased much of the HNA in 1987-88 and developed a series of ponds along with a trail system through the area. The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission manages the HNA through an agreement with the PUD.
The Horan is a haven for outdoor activities. It is a birding hot spot due to the shrubs, black cottonwood and grasses/forbs that provide a variety of habitats for birds, deer and other mammals. The sloughs along the east edge provide a water-based trail system for canoes and kayaks.
Most of the surface water that historically flowed into the Horan has been curtailed. The ponds are disappearing as they dry. Occasionally, seasonal flooding forces closure of portions of the trail system. Conditions in the HNA can be improved if a dependable water supply is introduced to sustain wetland, pond and riparian habitats.
Weeds are pervasive in the Horan and need to be controlled or eliminated. A vegetation management strategy that encourages culturally important plants (Indian hemp and Showy milkweed) would lead to increased vitality in the area.
The Horan is largely unknown and under-used by local residents. It offers a unique opportunity for environmental education and increased recreation. Development of multicultural signage and education will play a large role in use of the area.
Looking to the Future
The city has started planning the Confluence Parkway project and Chelan County PUD is beginning the process to relicense Rock Island dam. Both the city and the PUD staff have expressed interest in improving the Horan area during their planning.
The NCWAS would like to see the following enhancements made in the Horan Natural Area:
Introduce a reliable flow of water to the area to support a network of ponds connected by a channel lined with native riparian plant species.
Redesign the existing steep-sided ponds to encourage waterfowl and shorebirds.
Develop a vegetation management plan to minimize weeds and support native plants including Indian hemp and Showy milkweed.
Construct a living installation to honor the Native American history of the area.
Construct an environmental and cultural center to provide a location for educational and civic events.
Develop a bilingual educational curriculum for K-12 grades to promote environmental and cultural awareness.
Achieving these goals will take time and a shared vision. Informed citizens and key players are essential if conditions in the HNA are to be improved.
Key players in this effort include:
The city, PUD, Washington State Parks and Recreation and private landowners.
The Confederated Tribes of the Colville Tribes and the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation.
Citizens of Wenatchee and East Wenatchee
Our Valley Our Future
As the City of Wenatchee and the Chelan PUD ask for public input during their planning activities, your voice is important. Let them know your thoughts about the value of the Horan and the need for improvements to make the area a world-class urban natural area. Talking points to help you organize a support letter can be found at ncwaudubon.org/talkingpoints.pdf.
With citizen awareness and input to the City and the PUD, planning for the Horan can be a win-win for all of us. The Horan is highly valuable now and can be even more valuable in the future. This is a chance to build a lasting legacy of environmental stewardship and social responsiveness that will serve the Wenatchee Valley for generations to come.
The mission of the North Central Washington Audubon is to promote the welfare of birds in North Central Washington using science, advocacy, education and on-the-ground conservation. Enhancement of healthy ecosystems and other wildlife is seen as an important means to achieve this.