News

Welcome Center high on funding list

By Kevin Hanson, The Courier-Herald

Supporters of a Welcome Center in Enumclaw are continuing behind-the-scenes work, buoyed by the expectation of receiving the millions of dollars needed to get the project up and running.

A handful of boosters gathered last week in an Enumclaw Public Library meeting room, ironing out an agreement between the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, Enumclaw Area Chamber of Commerce and the city of Enumclaw. The first three entities figure to be tenants of the Welcome Center, while the city is the lead agency, coordinating efforts to secure funding and get the facility built.

By the end of the short meeting, all sides voiced support for the agreement, which will now be finalized and circulated for official signatures.

While the drafting of a formal agreement is a key step in the Welcome Center process, the biggest hurdle is funding - and, while nothing is certain, it appears the needed grant money might be on its way.

Earlier this year, boosters hand-delivered a formal request to Congresswoman Jennifer Dunn's Seattle-area office, seeking a federal appropriation of $5.3 million. Dunn had gone on record as supporting the project, and her staff assisted the Enumclaw-based Welcome Center committee in preparing the grant request.

In April, staffers reported Dunn had made the Welcome Center her No. 2 priority when submitting requests for funding through the federal Transportation Efficiency Act. Requests ranked that high typically are funded, but the final decision on appropriations won't be announced until fall.

Mark Bauer, Enumclaw city administrator, said the $5.3 million would entirely finance the project, including land acquisition, design and construction.

Boosters envision the Welcome Center as a one-stop location for information about Mount Rainier amenities, plus other local attractions, aside from housing agency offices and the local chamber of commerce, with its associated visitor's center. A committee identified a preferred site - on the south side of state Route 410 near Watson Street - but the location could still be up for discussion.

The center could boost the local economy simply by attracting more visitors to Enumclaw and the surrounding area, boosters say.

Kevin Hanson can be reached at khanson@courierherald.com

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