I never get tired of writing about the people in our midst who have the vision, strength of will and determination to make important contributions to the well-being of our communities.

These are the folks who never stop pushing to make the community better — they are never satisfied with the status quo.

On Thursday, Sept. 23, the Complete The Loop Coalition held a gathering at the foot of Fifth Street in Wenatchee to honor the late Bob Parlette for his crucial contributions to getting the Apple Capital Recreation Loop Trail completed.

Rufus Woods

Rufus Woods

Bob Parlette

Bob Parlette

A plaque honoring Parlette was dedicated in the plaza near where a similar monument honors Joan VanDivort, Parlette’s friend and fellow tireless community builder who was instrumental in opening up riverfront access and creating a tremendous civic treasure that has transformed the valley.

Completing the Loop trail and extending it to Rocky Reach Dam on the Douglas County side of the river on publicly owned land turned out to be a herculean task and leading the charge was Parlette.

The words on the plaque describe the inspiration behind Bob’s work on the riverfront trail:

Parlette plaque

The plaque honoring Bob Parlette at the foot of Fifth Street in Wenatchee

“When I came to town, I wanted to go down to the river. I went to the bottom of Fifth Street, and there was a big fence there and a ‘Do Not Enter’ sign. I just couldn’t believe there was no way to access the river. Now when I go down to the riverfront, it gladdens my heart to see people riding bikes and smiling at each other as they walk on the trail. For decades, we had our backs to the river, and today we have turned our faces to the river.”

Indeed, we do.

Bob Parlette

Gordon Congdon and Bob Parlette before the Douglas County side of the Apple Capital Recreation Loop Trail was developed.

Thanks to Dr. Gordon Congdon Sr., Parlette and along with Doug Pauly, Mel Henkle, Dr. Eliot Scull, Jake Lodato and so many others, what was once a dumping ground has been transformed into a treasured community asset.

Doug Pauly, the CEO of Northern Fruit, recalled returning to the valley with his wife Katie in 1975 and saw that Parlette and Congdon were spear heading the effort to complete the Loop.

There was opposition to the concept from some orchardists and Pauly thought that he might be able to help resolve it. What he initially thought might be achieved in a few months turned into a two decades-long effort that ultimately required the state Supreme Court’s blessing to get the extension to Lincoln Rock State Park authorized.

In the mid 1970s, when what was then the Olds Station Bridge (now the Odabashian Bridge) was being designed, there was initially no accommodation made for pedestrians to cross. Pauly recalled it took one phone call from Parlette to Sen. Henry M. Jackson’s office to push the federal government to include a pedestrian lane.

Another of the valley’s great trails advocates, retired educator Charlie Hickenbottom, detailed the sequence of events that began with the Olds Station Bridge with pedestrian access, to the construction of Walla Walla Point Park and Confluence State Park in the late 1980s, the pedestrian bridge over the Wenatchee River, the development of trails in Douglas County in the mid 1990s and finally the 20-year battle to extend the trail to Lincoln Rock State Park.

Hickenbottom is completing a book on the history of the development of the trail that should be available this fall.

Pauly challenged those at the dedication to continue striving for more. We still need a trail from Wenatchee to Leavenworth, said Pauly, and what about figuring out a way for pedestrians to cross Rocky Reach Dam some way from the Douglas County side so that they can take advantage of the PUD’s redeveloped visitor center. It’s a project Parlette would endorse.

“Bob would say, ‘Let’s go get ‘em,’” said Pauly.

We owe a great debt of gratitude to Bob Parlette and the best way to repay him is to follow in his footsteps in building a stronger, more resilient community.

Rocky Reach Trail

Bob Parlette (second from right in yellow shirt) snipping a ribbon after 20 years of effort and 10 years of litigation.

Rufus Woods is the publisher emeritus of The Wenatchee World. He may be reached at rwoods@wenatcheeworld.com or (509) 665-1162.

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