The berry fields and fruit orchards at Green Bluff haven’t been so easy to get to this summer.
Earlier this season, the county closed two of the main access routes to this popular destination in the shadow of Mount Spokane. Strawberry pickers had trouble getting to the fields, and the midseason income of some farmers is down compared to last year, growers said.
“It was quite an inconvenience,” said Byron Siemers, one of the growers who complained to the county about access problems.
A section of the Day-Mount Spokane Road between Highway 2 and Bruce Road is being rebuilt this summer at a cost of $2.2 million.
The Greenbluff Road was closed by county maintenance workers so they could put a coat of sealant on the pavement to improve its longevity. It has since reopened.
To make matters worse, customers on their way to Green Bluff were not given sufficient warning on road signs leading to the farming area, Siemers said.
“It cost us business. We know that,” he said.
Siemers estimated his receipts are down 10 percent so far this year, but part of that may be due to a slowdown of activity during the July heat wave.
Marilyn Beck, owner of the Harvest House fruit and vegetable market at Green Bluff, said her receipts are down about 25 percent from last year.
She and the growers rely heavily on visitor traffic for income, and because of that, they’ve worked hard to promote Green Bluff as a fun destination for the family.
They already were suffering from the loss of peach, apricot and nectarine crops because of winter damage when the county’s roadblocks went up.
She and several of the growers got on the phone to the county and ended up meeting with top officials at Green Bluff in July.
Since then, the county has improved detour signs along Highway 2 and other roads, and officials promised to coordinate their work to the farming area’s growing seasons.
“This has resulted in us understanding a little more about their problems,” said Chad Hutson, public information specialist for the county.
Hutson said the county wants to extend improvements to the Day-Mount Spokane Road all the way to the Green Bluff store.
Other work is scheduled for future summers on Mount Spokane Park Drive and Bruce Road, he said.
Traffic on the Day-Mount Spokane Road more than tripled in the past 15 years, in part because of the popularity of the northeast part of the county for home building. Before the closure, traffic was nearly 3,500 cars a day.
The current project calls for four lanes between Highway 2 and Yale Road and for widening and leveling of the two-lane roadway between Yale and Bruce roads.
County officials are asking the state to allow larger and more informative signs on Highway 2 so motorists will know how to get to Green Bluff and what crops are in season, Hutson said.
Currently the cherry season is ending, and summer apples are just becoming ripe. There are a few vegetable crops such as cucumbers and beets, but the main apple crops won’t start ripening until September and early October.
Beck said she wants people this season to know Green Bluff is the same. “We still have a beautiful view, and it’s a nice place to come,” she said.