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King County Parks receives permit for final stretch of E Lake Sammamish Trail

Map of the trail with the final section highlighted. The East Lake Sammamish Trail is likely the second-most litigated stretch of trail around following the Ballard Missing Link. But the final stretch of the trail got one big step closer to construction as the City of Sammamish issued King County a permit to finally finish the key link between Redmond and Issaquah.

Sections of the rail trail have been completed for years, but the final piece has been held up by legal actions from some trailside neighbors in one of the wealthiest parts of the region.

The work is largely funded through the King County Parks levy voters approved in August. The final section is right in the middle, flanked on both the north and the south by completed trails into Redmond and Issaquah.

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With the permit in hand, King County Parks plans to begin work in 2020 and construct the trail in 2021. That’s, of course, assuming opponents don’t find another legal maneuver to delay it or somehow convince the US Supreme Court to take up their case (yes, they are actually trying that)…

UPDATE: I missed the news that the US Supreme Court declined to take up their case. So in theory, there is nowhere else to file an appeal. I think it is worth noting here how seriously messed up and shameful it was for opponents to put rail-trails across the entire nation at risk just to stop a parks investment near their homes. That required a shameful level of selfishness, and I’m very glad they lost. Imagine if they invested those resources into something good for the world instead.

Cascade Bicycle Club has declared victory:

We’re in it for the long haul to see a safe East Lake Sammamish Trail built to regional trail standards. And we’ve been there—together—every step of the way so far.

For Cascade Bicycle Club, the East Lake Sammamish Trail is a project that has spanned two decades of work and hundreds of volunteer and staff hours. Once it’s complete, the trail will carry an estimated 5-7,000 people per day by foot and by bike.

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15 responses to “King County Parks receives permit for final stretch of E Lake Sammamish Trail”

  1. Matt

    I don’t know that I put this in the same category as the missing link, tbh. This trail is already complete in this segment, it’s just not paved. I ride this stretch recreationally pretty frequently and, if it’s not AAA, it’s at least AAa? I don’t know what arguments the local NIMBYs are using to oppose construction of this segment, but if I were them, I would lean on “isn’t there a better use of funds?”

    1. What’s the difference between this stretch of trail and the stretch to the south that’s marked as “soft-surface” on the map, or is the map outdated?

      1. Matt

        I’m terrible at knowing where I am on a trail, but the trail starts at the south end nicely paved, then goes to gravel and back to nicely paved. I’m pretty sure that “soft surface” is talking about the asphalt surface on the south end of the trail. I’m honestly not sure what the difference between that and the north end of the trail. When riding it, it seems pretty much the same to me.

    2. Skylar

      I’ve biked it a number of times as well. Even the gravel segment is smoother than some “paved” roads in Seattle, and King County has done a first-class job at managing trail crossings. Seattle could learn something from the county for its portion of the BGT.

  2. Bravo to Cascade and the others who were involved! Can’t wait to ride it.

  3. The first permanent trail segment in Redmond, was completed in 2011. The second, the Issaquah segment, was completed in 2013. North Sammamish 2.6 miles was complete July 2015 and the South Sammamish A is 1.2 miles and was completed on January 17, 2018. South Sammamish B is the last segment to be completed and is approximately 3.6 miles long. It’s the middle segment that’s currently crushed rock.

  4. Art Valla

    The county took the wrong approach on this. When people block something like a trail, the easiest way to get them to remove the block is to present them with something worse.

    In this case, the county could have proposed putting the tracks back in and running light rail along the route – with a station located right in front of the most ardent trail opponents home. Of course, that would mean an eminent domain seizure of the property.

    Or maybe instead of light rail, running an “Historic Train” with coal fired steam locomotives belching tonnes of ash, squealing wheels, and leaking gallons of lubricant and other fluids. And, of course, a strategically located water tower and refueling depot. Turn South Sammamish into Petticoat Junction.

    1. Of course that would amount to a massively corrupt use of government power (i.e. for coercion or retaliation). Because government, in a republic, basically does business in the open, this corruption would be open. Nobody involved would get away with it, legally or politically, and rightfully so.

      Anyway a big project that’s obviously for coercion or retaliation, not the public interest, would never make it into plans for any agency that could actually build it. These agencies all have responsibilities to the public to use their funding in the public interest! Projects that aren’t in the public interest, or that involve unnecessary impacts or takings, are much easier to fight than good projects. They aren’t even relevant threats that could bring adversaries to the table. Any official that tried to behave this way would be not only corrupt but incompetent.

      That’s not even to go into the political damage such actions would cause, the loss of faith in a democratic government to do the collective will. That would make every attempt at positive change harder for years.

      I mean, I know this is a joke, but… I think we’ve all gotta be serious about our democratic values these days.

      1. Art Valla

        I don’t know about that, Al. Seems like our King County Council proposes silly stuff all the time, like ferry boats on Lake Washington.

        Seems like if a councilman were to show up at a public meeting with pictures of old trains and a map of where the tracks would go, the dust would really fly. Especially if he or she had the paperwork to turn the trails back into rails and distributed them to the local media.

        No actual harm done – except the people trying to block the trail would realize there are other uses for the RR right-of-way that don’t require public hearings or EIS statements or local permits. Federal RR Right-of-ways trumps everything.

        Political risk? Dow Constantine and Rod Dembowski seem to survive all the silly ferryboat talk.

    2. ryan

      remember that this is a rail bank and it very well could end up being a light rail line in the future.

      1. rdl03

        Have you ridden this trail? I would wager that we’ll have Medicare for All and cut the deficit in half before there’s even a half serious discussion of light rail down the trail.

  5. rdl03

    The surface isn’t bad, though lots of the road intersections have abrupt edges, but parts of the unpaved section are narrow and dangerous, with fences on both sides right up to the trail. I had a young girl jump onto the trail in that section this summer not far in front of me. That could have been disastrous.

  6. […] blazing: King County has obtained its final permit to complete construction of the East Lake Sammamish Trail in […]

  7. Kenny

    I think you’re being disingenuous with the way homeowners are being represented. Sammamish Home Owners are claiming that the access King Co acquired along E Lake Sammamish was originally from the railroad, which only acquired an easement (but no fee simple property). King Co is now claiming that they have adversely possessed the land outright. Homeowners are asserting that King Co only had a surface easement to the corridor, and that said easement is limited to what the railroad originally used. A paved trail is still possible (and indeed publicly encouraged by SHO), but they’re merely seeking a declaration of ownership to limit how much land King Co can adversely possess.

  8. Art Valla


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