Oroville approves Similkameen Trailhead Conditional Use Permit for parking, restrooms

OROVILLE – The Oroville City Council approved a Conditional Use Permit for miscellaneous improvements to the Similkameen Trailhead, including the construction of restrooms and a parking lot.

The decision came following a closed testimony hearing at the council’s Tuesday, March 5 meeting. Public testimony had already taken place at a previous meeting of the city’s planning commission. The CUP was applied for by Okanogan County, which owns the trailhead property at the end of Kernan Road.

The Similkameen Trailhead was originally purchased by the city, but acquired by the county when the opportunity came up to get a grant to enhance the county’s trail system, according to Chris Branch, director of Community Development.

“The property wasn’t big enough, then the county made a trade with an adjacent property owner,” said Branch. “The parking lot and restroom facilities are the primary improvements they are going to do, with maybe some fencing in the future.”

After the council approved the permit, based on planning commission and staff recommendations, Joseph Enzensperger gave an update on what the local chapter of the Pacific Northwest Trail (PNT) Club has been doing. The Similkameen Trail, as well as the newly developed Whistler Canyon Trail, are part of the PNT system.

“There are lots of really exciting things happening. Nationally we (PNT) are one of the top four national scenic trail systems in the country, as well as the newest,” said Enzensperger.

“Oroville is almost smack dab in the center of the trail. We are on the map, Oroville is a place to come to,” he said. There are lots of opportunities for small, entrepreneurial businesses and jobs… like a bike shop.”

Enzensperger said over 20 students from Oroville High School participated in the SKY program working on the Similkameen and Whistler Canyon Trails. PNT club members and other volunteers have also done a lot of work on the trails.

“The Backcountry Horsemen have really done a lot of work on the Whistler Canyon Trail,” added Enzensperger. “The view from the picnic table on Whistler’s Canyon is one of the best on the trail.”

He also said that now we are no longer represented by U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rogers, Oroville needs to work to designate the city as a gateway to the PNT, because McMorris Rogers is supporting Metaline Falls for that distinction.

“We know in Oroville we’d be a better gateway,” said Enzensperger, adding that U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings, whose district now includes Oroville, has been contacted.

“Doc Hastings thinks we can give Cathy McMorris a run for her money, according to the President of the PNT,” said Enzensperger.

He went on to say he’d like to see the PNT meetings of the local chapter become more integrated into the community and asked if they could be moved from the high school to the library’s meeting room.

“We don’t schedule the meeting room,” said Mayor Chuck Spieth.

“But the city can let them know we support your efforts,” said City Clerk Kathy Jones.

Enzensperger asked that the city put aside a small part of the city budget each year for support of the trail.

“If the city could consider a little seed money as a gesture. The PNT Club is also going to do fundraisers,” he said. “We’re just asking for a couple hundred dollars to start.”

Clerk Jones suggested the club apply for some of the city’s Hotel/Motel Tax tourist funds.

The trail supporter said that his group would like to see footbridges to Driscoll Island near the confluence of the Similkameen and Okanogan Rivers. He said the Island could be integrated into the rest of the trail system and help connect the Whistler Canyon and Similkameen Trails.

More information on the Similkameen Trail can be found online at the trail’s Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Similkameen-Trail/125033350876813, at the Washington Trails Asociation Hiking Guide http://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/similkameen-trail and in a review by Brent Baker http://www.gazette-tribune.com/sports/strolling-the-similkameen-trail/55026/.