Arlington to meet to discuss future of its riverfront

ARLINGTON — Envision this: A hotel with river views, a restaurant with a deck overlooking the Stillaguamish, a kayak rental business and fishing shop, a cafe near parks and trails, a boat ramp and a zip-line ride across the Stilly.

Those are just some of the ideas to be thrown out this evening at a meeting regarding the future of downtown Arlington’s riverfront. The city’s natural resource manager Bill Blake and its Planning Commissioners are encouraging people to attend the planning meeting, set for 5:30 p.m. today in the City Council chambers, 238 N. Olympic Ave.

“We need to think about the future of development along the river. What do we want to happen in the next 10 to 20 years?” Blake said. “We need to know what people want to see there and what they don’t want to happen, too.”

The city’s riverfront is generally between the Highway 9 bridge over the Stillaguamish River and the Highway 530 bridge, across the river from the Twin Rivers County Park, at the city’s most northerly end. There’s little development on the land now other than a park, a mobile home park, a grocery store and a Snohomish County District Court.

An informal survey taken at Arlington’s street fair earlier this month showed that many people are interested in seeing a nice hotel and restaurant built along the river, Blake said.

“People also want the natural beauty of the river protected,” he said. “And so far, nobody wants private housing along the river, but rather an area for public access.”

To encourage tourists to visit the riverfront and the old downtown area, parking could be established in between so that “people only have to walk a couple blocks either way,” Blake said.

Zoning in the riverfront area already allows for it to go commercial. The Riverfront Master Plan would include economic development, zoning and land use, design standards, recreational, environmental, historical and art elements, open spaces and marketing efforts.

“The value is there, we just need to create a plan,” Blake said. “And we want to write it and wrap it up before the end of the year.”

City Councilwoman Debora Nelson ran for mayor last year with a campaign platform that included riverfront development.

“It’s an idea that is important for the future of the economic life of our city,” Nelson said. “We need to pull in the flavor of the river. We need to embrace its history and environmental importance, but plan for a family-friendly tourist location that includes recreation and business. And tie it in with downtown.”

Many cities across the country have successfully and carefully developed their riverfronts, Nelson said.

“How often does a town have an opportunity like this to create a whole new space to be enjoyed for generations to come?” she said. “That’s exciting.”

For more information about the Arlington Riverfront Master Plan, contact Blake at 360-403-3440 or bblake@arlingtonwa.gov.

Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427; gfiege@heraldnet.com.

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