Pierce County will condemn properties needed to complete the Foothills Trail missing link

Map from Pierce County. Markup by Seattle Bike Blog.

Map from Pierce County. Markup by Seattle Bike Blog.

The Pierce County Council has started the process of condemning about an acre of property needed to complete a key section of the Foothills Trail more than 25 years after work on the trail began, The News Tribune reports.

The move comes after property owners refused to negotiate a fair price with the county, according to members of the council. Negotiations with one property owner, Doug Dickson, have been ongoing since 1995. Some property owners claim the county low-balled them. But everyone seems to agree that the negotiation points were nowhere near each other, so now it goes to the courts to come up with a fair figure.

People have been working to get this trail built for so long that many of them are no longer with us. But once completed, the trail will stretch from Puyallup to Enumclaw. There is still a bit of work to get there as some sections have not yet been paved and there needs to be a bridge between Buckley and Enumclaw.

But the Pierce County Council wants it to happen, and local leaders see the trail as a potential boon to their economies. From The News Tribune:

Buckley Mayor Pat Johnson said said she’s optimistic the completed trail will bring new businesses to Buckley, as it already has to Orting.

“For us, it will hopefully be part of our economic survival,” Johnson said.

She said Buckley is working with the City of Enumclaw and King and Pierce counties to add a pedestrian bridge across the White River to connect with the Foothills Trail in Enumclaw.

King County already owns the right of way to continue the trail on to the Maple Valley area.

“The section that we are looking at completing now will be part of a much larger picture in the future,” Johnson said.

Buzz Grant, president of the Foothills Rails-to-Trails Coalition, said there were many people who “started out with this concept of this trail back in the ‘80s and they’re not with us anymore.”

“We’re dying to get it done, I guess,” Grant said. “It’s time for the courts to sort this thing out.”

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16 Responses to Pierce County will condemn properties needed to complete the Foothills Trail missing link

  1. Richard says:

    Sad that this had to be pushed so far to happen. I’m sure some will see this situation as an excuse to rail against cyclists even further (Damn entitled cyclists took over the guv’mint and made ’em steal those people’s land!!!), but of course when you look at the commentary from the land owners, it’s clear that’s not the case at all- one of the owners basically said he inflated the asking price because he didn’t want more people around.

  2. Al Dimond says:

    It seems kind of silly to condemn private property when there’s a public road a very short distance from the trail. If building a great bike route on an existing public ROW is cheaper, faster, and less contentious than condemning the private route you want, why would you condemn, other than stubbornness? In this particular case you don’t really have any more driveway crossings along the road, and it’s not farther from key destinations or less direct.

    If building a great bike route on an existing public ROW is more expensive, slower, or more contentious, then we might have deeper problems in our government and/or legal system!

    • JAT says:

      Yes and no. (in my opinion, obviously)

      I think that bike infrastructure tends to end up with bizarre (and less safe) detours/chicanes/kludges because it’s so often added as an after-thought to existing transportation networks and land use. Everyone has their favorite example, mine being where the Swing-bridge trail to West Seattle meets Delridge westbound: Boom, you’re spit onto an overgrown sidewalk on the wrong side of the street.

      And, yes I have no doubt that this will fuel anti-bikesterism in South Sound (my girlfriends father and brother-in-law both live down there and don’t hesitate to joke about running cyclists over), let there be no mistake were this missing piece of transportation infrastructure be for cars there wouldn’t have been ten minutes of delay in condemning the property.

      • Al Dimond says:

        Sometimes a small deviation is better than a long delay. Especially when the original route is pretty arbitrary.

        The deviation: a few blocks, with no great difference in land use or intersections — if you can build a great bike route in one place you can build a great bike route in the other. The delay: apparently 20 years (!?!?).

      • Al Dimond says:

        The thing with road projects… is that they’re a lot bigger in every way — size, cost, and economic impact, particularly. This state has wanted to extend highway 509 for years and has condemned a lot of land for it, but has let it sit empty for lack of funding. Illinois wanted to extend I-355 for a long time and a bunch of people knew their land would be condemned when the state found the money (this being Illinois, the idea that they actually had the money to spend is pretty tenuous). These things are big deals, with big impacts on a lot of people’s lives, on state budgets, on local transportation connectivity and local planning, and on the environment.

        One reason biking is awesome is that it lets people get around without such impacts. Bikes are personal and independent, but more maneuverable and flexible than cars, taking up less space, traveling at speeds that don’t require such monumental infrastructure or pristinely straight ROWs. We shouldn’t condemn property lightly, and the differences in cost changes and total impact between most bike projects and most road projects makes it only right that we’re slower to condemn land for a bike trail.

        I think there are a couple contrasting comparisons to this “missing link” situation closer to Seattle: the I-90 trail from Lake Washington to Factoria and the BGT missing link. The I-90 trail crosses over the freeway way too many times, and the bit over the Mercer Slough is straight-up lousy. I’d rather the route were straighter, but it’s better to have it cross over the freeway a few times than to have it not exist at all. On the other hand, on the BGT we’ve been fighting for one specific route for decades with nothing to show for it. We need to demand high-quality, thoughtful, safe designs, and on the core routes we need to demand 8-80 accessibility… but we need to be flexible on their exact positioning or we’ll never get anything built.

      • Josh says:

        The route isn’t really “arbitrary,” the trail follows the disused railway right of way — that’s why it makes the big loop to gain elevation at a grade low enough that trains could climb up out of the valley. That also means the trail has a much gentler grade than modern roadways up out of the valley. The corridor was created by an act of Congress in the Civil War era, and was mostly acquired or railbanked soon after the railroad officially abandoned the route, with just these few holdouts blocking completion of the trail.

    • jay says:

      Just curious, is the road you are thinking of STATE route 162? and this is a COUNTY project?

      “If building a great bike route on an existing public ROW is more expensive, slower, or more contentious, then we might have deeper problems in our government and/or legal system!”
      You are probably not wrong in this instance.

      In the Google street view, at one random point along this gap that I looked at, SR 162 seems to have narrow shoulders and a double yellow lines that the WDOT went to the trouble of cutting a rumble strip between, suggesting to me this isn’t the safest road for automobiles, much less bicycles. Also the pavement looks pretty new, I don’t imagine the sate would be in a big hurry to spend more money widening the shoulders. I’m not so sure that even if they did widen the shoulders that would really be a “great bike route”. Plus, West bound cyclists would have to cross the highway twice. I don’t know how wide the ROW is, but from the Google street view it doesn’t look likely a protected two way cycle track could be put on the south side.
      On the other hand, I have no idea how much traffic is on that road, the Google aerial view does have only one car in that section, which doesn’t seem too bad. As long as cyclists stick to daylight hours and good weather they will probably be ok, most of the time.

      • Al Dimond says:

        If the state and county couldn’t get together to build a bike path protected from traffic by serious physical barriers in less time than they’ve spent negotiating and condemning the land, and for less money than they’ve wasted on lawyers, then, yeah, there’s something seriously wrong with our government.

    • 47hasbegun says:

      To be honest, I would be fine if they would just add to the road ROW. OpenStreetMap shows [an existing route](http://www.openstreetmap.org/#map=17/47.13860/-122.08483&layers=C) that connects the needed bits.

      However, it would have to be vastly improved. For one, the bridge on the left is gated off despite being shown as part of the trail here, and there’s no transition from the pavement to the bridge, or back to the ground on the other side. That would have to be fixed.

      Additionally, 262nd Avenue East is a steep gravel road. If they were to pave it and mark it with something, that’d be enough.

      As it stands, it’s not a viable route; something needs to be done, but not necessarily what was decided upon.

  3. Pingback: Gaining access to orphaned section of Foothills Trail in Pierce County » Biking Bis

  4. Jeremy says:

    First off I live in South Prairie. To see Pierce county take a mans family land away for recreation of other people is completely wrong and unethical. I on a regular basis deal with the users of this path who 90% can’t even understand a stop sign. One of the reasons why the owner stopped letting people through is the amount of garbage that was left on his property. Now the county comes in and will take away your land if you don’t let other people trash your private property. When did I wake up in another country that allowed this from the government. To condemn land so the county could take it for pennies on the dollar just infuriates me. This needs to be stopped unless the owner allows it period. The people running Pierce County are nothing but crooks plain and simple.

    • Gary says:

      First I’m sorry that the trail users are tossing garage all around. Rest assured you are not alone, there is garbage all along all our city streets and highways.

      Second: The value for the comdenation will be determined by an aribitrator. It won’t be “pennies on the dollar”. That’s not how it works in this state.

      Third: Taking land for the use of others is what this country is founded on. Remember it was occupied when the first Europeans arrived. Taking land for transportation is as old as the Railroads, canals, etc. So one can’t be surprised when it happens.

      Lastly: if you care to look there are more agregeious takings than this one. Just google “Kelo v. City of New London, 125 S. Ct. 2655 (2005)”

      • Josh says:

        Eminent domain is specifically recognized in the Bill of Rights, as well as the Washington State Constitution. Washington is much more restrictive, Kelo couldn’t happen here, but there’s no question that completing a public right-of-way is an eligible use.

      • viny says:

        As long as it is not your property it’s all good and fine -right Gary? Come on! The county can deviate a little and leave this guys property alone.

    • Karl says:

      “for the recreation of other people” – Wrong! Some of us actually get around by bicycle, including to and from work.

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