For all practical purposes the Central Washington University campus is a town within a town.
Its on-campus population is a significant percentage of the city’s population. It’s kind of its own microclimate in terms of traffic, police services and utilities. But to the credit of both city and university leaders the two bodies do a good job coordinating and communicating.
Earlier this month, CWU officials made a presentation to the Ellensburg City Council on the university’s facilities master plan update for 2013, and the council unanimously endorsed the plan.
There have been times in the past when the two entities have worked through conflict — resolving fire service coverage took awhile many years back — but for the most part the city and university are locked in a mutually beneficial relationship.
From a purely financial sense, the city counts on the growth and vitality of campus. When Central constructs a new building it generates sizable permit fees for the city. Central’s steady construction through the Great Recession helped the city weather the downturn in private sector construction. Without CWU’s construction it is probably safe to say the city would have had to cut back staff.
This year is one of the rare years when Central doesn’t yet have a major project in the works. But the signs are positive that the state Legislature will approve funding for the construction of Science Building II — that’s assuming the legislators eventually get around to completing their work.
There are other capital projects on the list, none the size of the science structure, that will also generate permit fees.
A project in the plan that will interest residents is the reconnecting of the John Wayne Trail through campus. According to CWU officials, a committee has been working to identify a pedestrian-bicycle route through campus and an equestrian route the bypasses campus.
This is a project of statewide significance given the popularity of the trail. Reconnecting the trail would be a major moment.
Ellensburg residents also are interested in the university’s goal of better connecting the campus with the downtown. CWU officials want to work with businesses and residents to create a more identifiable connection. There’s work to be done on that one, but it is worth the effort.
Central’s mission is to serve higher education needs in the state and that drives its projects and construction. The city is a partner in that mission. From a resident’s standpoint it is good to see the cooperation and coordination. Anything short of that would negatively impact the quality of the life in the community.
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This editorial was written by Michael Gallagher and published in the Daily Record of Ellensburg on May 31, 2013.