Our Past | 1981: Kirby Billingsley Hydro Park comes into being

Selected by Karen Larsen

This article from the May 7, 1981 edition of The Empire Press tells about the creation of the park that is now named Kirby Billingsley Hydro Park. Billingsley was a local champion of hydro power and of riverfront recreation.

 

County Agrees to Maintain River-Park

Douglas County will lease and maintain the new Douglas County River-Park, located south of East Wenatchee at the old boat launching site.

Douglas County Commissioner Bill Schmidtman said the PUD will build the park at an estimated cost of $800,000 to $1 million. He said Douglas County will maintain and operate the facilities when they are completed — at an estimated cost of $4,100 for the first year.

The PUD, county and state all own parts of the 8½ acre site, which is about one-half mile long on the river side of State Route 28, Schmidtman said.

The plan will fulfill some of the Exhibit R recreational requirements which were created when Rock Island Dam was raised, he said.

Schmidtman said construction, which is expected to begin soon, should be completed by June 1, 1982.

With an already tight county budget and recent losses of CETA employees, Schmidtman said the cost of maintaining and operating the park “is going to be a problem,” but that it is “a facility so valuable to this area, we need it.”

He said the county this fall will budget about $3,000 for the park for the 1982 season.

Costs and priorities will have to be worked out in the parks department, he said, and commissioners anticipate that the department “will eventually have to charge user fees” for all the parks.

“We still feel it is a worthwhile investment,” he said. “It is our one chance to get a nice facility like this. We either have to operate and maintain it, or it won’t be built.”

Schmidtman noted that the river-park will be the county’s only access to the river in the area for picnicking, swimming and boat launching.