Dreaming of soaking up some sun, while having lunch on a deck by the Stillaguamish River?
Ever since Arlington moved up town more than 110 years ago, residents have dreamed of someday seeing a restaurant with a view of the river.
The city's long-term, big-picture plans have long included riverfront development.
When the subject of riverfront master planning was discussed at a city council retreat again this year, staff began to outline a process for making that happen, said Bill Blake, the city's natural resource manager and stormwater utilities director.
While investigating how other cities did their riverfront planning, Blake learned that the most common strategy was to hire a consultant to do the work.
Due to the current economic times and the state of the city budget, staff and council decided to work on it together.
"We've been discussing the possibilities, including trails connecting existing parks, and zoning for change in the future," Blake said.
The city's community development director, David Kuhl, used a city from his past as an example.
"Missoula is a case study in the same riverfront capability," Kuhl said.
A long time ago, the Clark Fork River in Missoula had many lumber mills. Logs were moved to the mills by the river. Businesses turned their backs to the river.
"I think it was in the 1960s when they started building hotels that faced the river with landscaping all around," Kuhl said.
Then came restaurants with balconies over the river, a small conference center associated with the hotel and a multi-story retirement home.
In the '70s they took out the rail on the other side of the river and made trails and parks. In the '90s, they expanded a riverfront park next to the downtown area and created a Wednesday Lunch in the Park that was put on by area chefs.
"It became a huge draw with big tents set up in the park," Kuhl said.
To plan for future development along the riverfront, city staff and elected officials have been meeting regularly this year.
"We've been asking for input from stakeholders and property owners," Blake said.
Arlington already has four major parks along the river.
The well-established and popular Haller Park has been expanded in recent years with the new Eagle Trail and the city utility's wetlands project. Haller is adjacent to Snohomish County's largest park, the Centennial Trail. On the northeast corner of the city, Country Charm Park with conservation area adds another 160 acres of parkland.
Blake said that value of river access is more than just the beauty of nature.
"There are many benefits to having access to the river," Blake said.
The river is not only essential for bringing life to all in the valley, it also provides jobs through agriculture and recreation, but it could be even more.
With a vision like Missoula in mind, it could also be a retail attraction, Kuhl said.
Blake said they are also looking at the historical pocket of town that was known as Haller City in 1900.
"That area north of Burke Street up to Division has a lot of history," Blake said.
At the next meeting, on Sept. 27, they will review a draft of the plan's chapters.
Blake plans to move the master planning process through the steps for approval by council early next year. Once complete, a draft will be reviewed by the planning commission and then presented at a city council workshop.
"It's always better to have a plan in place for what the community wants, rather than responding to a request for development that may not fit with the community's goals," Blake said.
"All it takes is a little vision and history to put things into perspective," Kuhl said.
"What would you suggest we encourage along the river?" he asked.
Anyone with ideas for Arlington's riverfront can contact Blake at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-403-3440.