One of the remarkable community collaborations in the region involves the work of Wenatchee Valley TREAD, an organization for motorized and non-motorized recreation development in Chelan and Douglas counties.
I sat down recently with Mat Lyons, a former Eastmont school administrator who is leading the effort at TREAD, which stands for Trails, Recreation, Education, Advocacy and Development, to learn more about this group.
The fact that this group includes both motorized and non-motorized user groups is exciting and noteworthy. In the past, these groups have kept to themselves and in many respects competed when they worked with land managers like the U.S. Forest Service to maintain and expand access for users.
The concept behind TREAD is that recreation in our region is going to increase significantly because of population pressure coming from the Puget Sound region and that we are better off guiding that development than having things happen without an overall strategy.
What I so appreciate about TREAD, which received organizational funding from Chelan County Port District, Confluence Health, Wenatchee Valley Chamber of Commerce and Our Valley Our Future, is their focus on developing recreation for those who live here while inviting outsiders to experience our outdoor assets in a way that fosters a sense of stewardship.
“We don’t want to be another Bend (Oregon),” said Lyons. Recreation meccas can become places where folks come and don’t respect the landscape and that’s the last thing we want in our region.
We want people to feel involved and engaged in our amazing landscape, not entitled.
I got an advance peek at an economic impact study of outdoor recreation that is about to be unveiled publicly. Among the findings are that of the 118,000 residents in the two counties, more than 70 percent utilized a trail of one type or another in 2016. The economic impact of outdoor recreation on the two counties is estimated $478 million.
When TREAD was formed in 2017, three objectives were developed based on input from user groups:
Create a comprehensive inventory of recreation assets.
Develop a signage plan (something that is sorely needed).
Engage as many user groups as possible to be as comprehensive and inclusive as possible.
TREAD, according to Lyons, is trying to be the organization that looks at outdoor recreation from a 30,000-foot view and a long-term perspective without favoring one user group over another. That’s an essential role that has been missing in this valley.
One exciting project in the works by the TREAD team is an app with multiple layers that would be kept up to date by users of outdoor recreation. Lyons gave me a sneak preview of this new tool, developed by a programmer in the Methow Valley.
It would allow a user to select what they want to do — trail ride, mountain bike, family-friendly hike, kayak, etc. — and it will show what trails are available, the access point, driving directions, recent user experiences on that trail, and so on.
Later this month, the leadership of TREAD will meet with civic leaders to review the economic study, the initiatives that have been identified and the app to see if there is enough financial support to allow TREAD to continue with its work.
TREAD is proving to be a great asset to our valley from an economic development as well as from a collaboration standpoint. It seems to me we need to find a way to support their work to put our valley in a position of guiding recreational development from a comprehensive standpoint.
The spirit of collaboration and cooperation continues to foster a sense of strong sense of community — of “us” — that is vital to maintain a strong quality of life here.
If people want to learn more, get in contact, or offer financial support they may do so at wvtread.org.
Rufus Woods is the Publisher emeritus of The Wenatchee World. Contact him at 665-1162 or email@example.com.