Ask someone in Leavenworth their opinion about the “adventure park” planned for the far west end of town and chances are good you’ll get an earful.
The proposed year-round, commercial amusement park would be constructed on a hillside at the busy intersection of Icicle Road and Highway 2, at the entrance to Tumwater Canyon. It would feature a 2,200-foot downhill alpine coaster, sluice mining, a ropes course and a bungee trampoline.
A few locals have told me they’re excited about the possibility. It sounds pretty neat, right? An alpine coaster? That could be cool.
The Chamber of Commerce is in favor of the park. It will be good for tourism, they say.
But a large and vocal group of Leavenworth residents has come out in strong opposition to the park as proposed. The Friends of Leavenworth group has raised money to hire an attorney, and raised some very real concerns about traffic, parking, noise and safety. The group believes the amusement park violates Leavenworth’s comprehensive plan. From its website:
“This (comprehensive) plan intends for Leavenworth to be a small, Old World Bavarian-themed village. Amusement parks did not exist in Old World Bavarian towns. ... The comprehensive plan specifically mentions this site (corner of Icicle Road and US2) as being suitable for resorts, hotels, motel and/or service stations. Any of these uses would have fewer environmental impacts than the proposed outdoor theme park.”
The park’s Seattle-area developers are pitching this as a much-needed attraction for tourists with small children, something for them to do in town besides drink or shop.
“Besides shopping, there seems to be a shortage of family activities — active entertainment for people who aren’t going to hike alpine ridges or float fast rapids,” project manager John Sutherland told the World last year.
I have two small children and we spend a lot of time in Leavenworth. There are plenty of gentle hiking trails in and near town that are perfect for their ages.
The kids don’t feel like hiking? Pack a picnic lunch and head to the river. Spend an afternoon at Lake Wenatchee State Park, where they can swim, or explore the massive driftwood logs washed up on shore, or kayak in one of the boats for rent there in the summer. Take them tubing in the winter. Teach them to fish. Teach them to skip rocks. Introduce them to “The Sound of Music” on a warm July evening. Check out the bike pump track or the skate park. Visit the animals at Smallwood’s Harvest, or make a new friend at the reindeer farm.
If the natural wonderland in and around Leavenworth isn’t enough to keep a tourist’s children entertained, I truly do not know what they are doing here. Maybe they should try Disneyland.
People from all over the world are drawn to Leavenworth by the Upper Valley’s natural beauty. The Creator’s paint brush surely lingered over the canvas here, perfecting the landscape, the curve of the river. Now, though, locals will tell you that the city has reached a tipping point. They are frustrated by the weekend traffic. They are frustrated when tourists park in their driveways, or when bachelorettes from Bellevue rent the VRBO next door for rowdy weekends. They avoid downtown altogether during festivals. They worry about affording a place to live while all around them westsiders pay cash for second homes. And some of them now worry about how a new amusement park will impact their quality of life.
There is something about this plan — man-made, artificial “adventure” nailed into the hillside — that feels garish. The carnival comes to Tumwater Canyon. Even for a town whose economic engine is fueled by tourism, this is distasteful.
Time marches on. Private property owners do things on their land that their neighbors don’t like. Development changes a place. There’s nothing inherently wrong with any of that. But this park reeks of shortsightedness and feels entirely incompatible with the character of Leavenworth.
The park developers are applying for a zoning exception that would allow for construction to move forward. It will be up to the city’s hearing examiner, Andrew Kottkamp, to decide whether or not an amusement park is consistent with the city’s comprehensive plan, and whether or not to approve the requested exception.
Before he makes that decision, Kottkamp is hosting a public hearing, beginning at 8 a.m. Tuesday at the Festhalle. Public testimony will be accepted. There isn’t a precise time set for that, but it is expected that testimony will start at approximately 10 a.m. Each person will have three minutes to speak. Can’t attend the hearing? The city is accepting written comments. Send your comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org.