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Yakima River Canyon plan to be unveiled at open house

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Posted: Thursday, October 3, 2013 1:55 pm

Those interested in the future of the Yakima River Canyon corridor southeast of Ellensburg are invited to public open house events next week to review a plan to enhance visitor access and protect the natural qualities of the scenic corridor at the same time.

The first open house is 4 to 7 p.m. Tuesday at Ellensburg City Hall, according to an announcement. The second is the same time on Thursday at the Yakima Greenway Foundation, 111 S. 18th St. in Yakima.

The majority of the canyon, estimated at 24 miles long from Thrall to near Selah, is mostly in Kittitas County.

The draft Yakima River Canyon Scenic Byway Corridor Management Plan will be unveiled at next week’s events, and those associated with the scenic byway initiative will be on hand to answer questions and take comments.

The canyon and state Route 821 winding through it was early on recognized for its soaring basalt cliffs, sparkling water and close-at-hand wildlife: it was the first highway to be declared an official, state scenic byway in 1968 under a new program.

Come together

In 2010, two nonprofit groups joined forces to create a grass roots campaign to launch the Yakima River Canyon Scenic Byway Initiative. They are Forterra, the state’s largest land conservation, stewardship and community building organization, and the Kittitas Environmental Education Network (KEEN), a nonprofit group promoting environmental education, according to the draft plan document.

Twenty-six federal, state, and local agencies, conservation groups, clubs, local business partners and private landowners on Oct. 22, 2010, signed a memorandum of understanding to establish and describe a partnership that is dedicated to designing, implementing, and promoting the scenic byway initiative.

According to the draft document, the voluntary plan outlines how to protect and enhance the intrinsic qualities and characteristics that define the Yakima River Canyon Scenic Byway.

It also serves as a tool for identifying local priorities for improvements and helping partners and stakeholders organize to seek funding for and implemention of projects.

The plan will help partners, stakeholders and community members coordinate marketing and tourism activities, the document states.

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