Support a developed and accessible John Wayne Trail at Tuesday meeting in Preston

Document-1The John Wayne Pioneer Trail (AKA the Iron Horse Trail) is a magnificent statewide asset stretching from Rattlesnake Lake to Tekoa and the Idaho border.

Or at least it should be.

Important sections of the trail are impeded by closed trestles and tunnels. General disrepair to the unimproved railbed makes biking, hiking and horse travel difficult. And there is are big stretches with irregular water access and other necessary facilities.

But the dream of a fully-functional statewide trail is alive and powerful after a brush with closure last year woke people up across Washington. Thanks in large part to the hard work of the Tekoa Trail and Trestle Association (“TTTA”), talk of giving the trail to adjacent landowners seems to have mostly disappeared.

Instead, the state’s Parks and Recreation Commission is looking to invest in the trail, both to improve public access to the trail and to get noxious weed problems under control (a concern from adjacent landowners). You can join in the second round of meetings 6–8 p.m. Tuesday at the Preston Community Center (right off the Preston-Snoqualmie Trail, a nice ride if you’ve never done it).

Ted Blaszak from the TTTA penned an op-ed in the Seattle Times recently outlining his group’s asks:

… the price tag is low compared to other infrastructure work done in Washington. It has an excellent return on the investment, not only for our state tax base but particularly for several small towns along the trail that are suffering. Tekoa’s population has declined 40 percent over the last 40 years. Last year, we had three restaurants; now we’re down to two.

Further, by repairing the trail with work phased in over the years, we can avoid a great impact on our state budget and allow the trail to begin generating income immediately.

If you’re a cyclist, trail user, horse owner or just appreciate the beauty of our state, we need help:

• Ask your city council to pass a resolution in support of the trail.

• Attend the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission meeting, 6 to 8 p.m., May 10 at the Preston Community Center, located six miles east of Issaquah.

• Email or call your state legislators, especially Republican caucus members, and ask for their support to protect and fund the trail.

Imagine an easily-bikeable crushed gravel trail with regular water, bathroom and camping/local inn access stretching from Seattle to Tekoa, passing through small communities and the state’s incredible and varied regions along the way. Not only would that be an affordable vacation for people across the state, but it would certainly become a tourist draw from out-of-state.

There’s a lot of work to do to get the trail there, but it’s worth it. More details on the second round of public meetings from the WA Parks and Recreation Commission:

The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission invites the public to help plan for the future of the John Wayne Pioneer Trail in eastern Washington through a second round of public meetings.

Because the trail spans such a distance, State Parks has scheduled two meetings that will cover the same topics. The first meeting is 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, May 10, at the Preston Community Center, 8625 310th Ave., Preston. (Directions: https://goo.gl/maps/yuDgjmYSFzH2). The second meeting is 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, May 11, at the Washington Association of Wheat Growers, 109 E. First, Ritzville. (Directions: https://goo.gl/maps/dWS6sXBJpYF2).

These meetings are the second of two rounds of public meetings in which State Parks staff will provide information on the planning process and gather information and comments from the public that will help lead to a long-term plan for the John Wayne Pioneer Trail. At these meetings, State Park staff will have a presentation followed by a breakout session to collect public comments on preliminary recommendations for a range of trail-related issues, including noxious weed and vegetation management, trailhead and camping opportunities, fencing and trail-use permits. To view a map and get more information about the John Wayne Pioneer Trail planning project, visit http://parks.state.wa.us/979/John-Wayne-Pioneer-Trail-Planning. The public may provide written comments at the meeting, online or by contacting Randy Kline, Parks Planner, (360) 902-8632 or randy.kline@parks.wa.gov.

The first round of meetings were held on March 8 and 9 in Cheney and Ellensburg, and input provided at those meetings has helped shape the preliminary recommendations that will be presented during the May meetings.

Background
The John Wayne Pioneer Trail section undergoing public planning is part of the Iron Horse State Park Trail that extends 285 miles from North Bend to the Idaho border and comprises most of the former Milwaukee Road Railroad corridor. The eastern portion of the John Wayne Pioneer Trail begins on the east side of the Columbia River and extends 175 miles east to the Idaho border. In winter 2015, State Parks began working with a 12-member advisory committee to produce a plan to address management and recreational use issues on this section of the trail. The advisory committee members represent an array of trail interests, including:

  • Adjacent landowners
  • Tekoa Trestle and Trails Association
  • Agriculture
  • Tourism and economic development
  • Natural resources
  • Historic and cultural resources
  • Hikers/walkers
  • Cyclists
  • Equestrians
  • Utility provider

Planning for the 110-mile western portion of the Iron Horse State Park Trail from Cedar Falls (near North Bend) to Beverly Bridge on the west side of the Columbia River was completed in 2000. In 2014, State Parks completed planning for the 35-mile section of railroad corridor between Malden and the Idaho border.

State Parks has completed more than 100 land-use plans for parks around the state, through its Classification and Management Plan (CAMP) public process. The CAMP process addresses issues such as day-use and camping opportunities, overall visitor experience, natural resources and other topics of interest to the community.

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5 Responses to Support a developed and accessible John Wayne Trail at Tuesday meeting in Preston

  1. Michael says:

    Hello from Cheney, WA home to the start/end of the Columbia Plateau Trail. The CPT is the 6th longest rail trail in America and was/is also threatened by the same lack of investment and political nonsense that threatens the John Wayne trail. The CPT also happens to intersect with the JWT about 50 miles west of here. How cool is that.

    Thanks for all your work and coverage of the nonsense going on with our trails. Hopefully this will get sorted out soon and people will have wonderful places to ride.

  2. William says:

    This is really cool and since SDOT is not involved it just might get built.

  3. Ted Sweeney says:

    The JWPT is an amazing trail and one of the best ride experiences I’ve ever had. A maintained trail with amenities would be one of the most accessible epic rides in the country. This is right of way that is easily good enough to drive national bike tourism dollars to small communities all along the route. Complete the High Country Pathway and provide fixes and facilities to the JWPT, and suddenly there’s a sustainable, flat, humblingly beautiful, car-free ride connecting Seattle to Spokane, providing low-impact recreation to people throughout the state. Ted and the folks in Tekoa and their friends statewide definitely deserve your support. They are interfacing directly with the adjacent landowners and skeptical lawmakers in a firm but curious and collaborative way that I think we have lost faith in here in Western WA, and they are really forging a path forward. It’s awesome. Stay tuned in with this.

    • Ted Sweeney says:

      Whoops! Meant Columbia Plateau Trail, not High Country Pathway (which is an awesome 80 mile loop trail in Michigan which I did some trailwork on and which you should also ride if you get the chance).

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