Historic Coal Town Receives Smart Vision Award from Gov. Inslee

Congrats to the Town of Wilkeson! Last month WA Governor Jay Inslee named them a 2013 Smart Communities Award winner, in the Smart Vision category. Their leaders were praised for smart growth planning and contributing to our State’s quality of life.

Specifically, Wilkeson was recognized for their Rural Town Center Corridor Plan, recently completed by SCJ Alliance. “We love the history, tradition and ownership that comes with working with small communities,” said SCJ’s Jean Carr, LEED AP BD+C.

Historic photo of the Town of Wilkeson

The Town of Wilkeson sits at the base of Mount Rainier, about 20 miles east of Tacoma, WA. The corridor plan provides a comprehensive transportation system all along SR 165 through the town. This route also serves as Wilkeson’s “main street” and a living example of the historic coal towns that once boomed in the area.

“Six distinct elements combine to create the corridor plan. Each may be constructed independently, yet all work together to improve vehicle and pedestrian safety, community connectivity and stormwater facilities,” said SCJ’s Eric Johnston, PE the project’s lead.  “This approach provides flexibility in pursuing and leveraging funding, other projects and partners that complement other elements.” This strategy has already proven successful with over 50% of the plan funded for design and construction.

Conceptual rendering of Town of Wilkeson roadway

“This project began back in 2011 (see SCJ’s previous blog post) and involved extensive public outreach, close coordination with local businesses and the National Park Service, and the refinement of many concepts,” Johnston said. Project partner RWD Landscape Architect, PS created before/after renderings which brought the project to life for citizens and stimulated public participation at open houses, community gatherings and council meetings.

“While the corridor plan addresses transportation needs through the Town Center, we were also able to incorporate other elements important to our community,” said Wilkeson Mayor Donna Hogerhuis.

Photo of cut stone in Wilkeson showing dates established and incorporated“These include preservation of our Town’s heritage, improving safety for children walking to school, providing public access to Wilkeson Creek, and creating a continuous pedestrian and bicycle pathway through town. The plan also supports economic development by providing better access, parking and circulation for our Town Center business area,” Hogerhuis said.

The pedestrian and bicycle facilities along SR 165 will also benefit regional biking/hiking enthusiasts who use the Foothills Trail. The corridor plan enhances an important connection through this gateway community into the park and other recreational areas. “We’re starting design this summer on the extension of the Foothills Trail, which will go through Wilkeson’s town center,” shared Johnston.

Wilkeson_North_Rain_Garden_Rendering-2000x1500The Smart Vision Award also lauded Wilkeson for providing an innovative planning model for other communities, using meaningful public participation, and advancing Governor Inslee’s Working Washington Agenda, among other things.

The Wilkeson corridor planning process was funded through Puget Sound Regional Council’s Rural Town Corridors program with a local match from the Town of Wilkeson. The WA Dept. of Transportation (WSDOT) served as the sponsoring agency.

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