One of the smartest things any community can do for itself is to provide miles and miles of paved trails for bicycling – and for walking, jogging, roller-blading and all the other things people can do safely on traffic-free paths.
Such recreational amenities not only promote fitness at a time when Americans are losing control of their waistlines, but they also provide pollution-free ways for people to get to work.
In this regard, Tacoma has been woefully deficient.
So the official opening of Tacoma’s 5-mile Scott Pierson Trail Saturday calls for celebration – which is exactly what trail proponents and city officials plan for the occasion.
A ceremonial 3.8-mile group ride starts at 9 a.m. at War Memorial Park, near Jackson Avenue and Highway 16 near the Narrows Bridge. A dedication ceremony will begin at 10 a.m. at Cheney Stadium.
Many of the riders will be Spandex-clad members of the Tacoma cycling community who were deeply saddened when Scott Pierson, for whom the trail is named, died of a heart attack five years ago.
Pierson’s death was a shock because he was a fit, experienced, 58-year-old cyclist who rode to work daily rain or shine, and every time he could. But it hurt more because he was one of the city’s most dedicated advocates for building bike lanes and trails.
As a city planner, his passion was pushing for what he called “Gentle Ways” for people to ride and walk about the community.
While the trail should be celebrated, it’s sad to note that Tacoma and Pierce County are so far behind King and Thurston counties in providing public recreational trails. The Pierson Trail is the first true bike path in Tacoma. Pierce County’s best trail is the popular, 14.5-mile Foothills Trai from Puyallup to South Prairie.
Except for the newly opened, 3.3-mile Soundview Trail at the Chambers Bay Golf Course, the half-paved Riverfront Trail in Puyallup and the 2.5-mile Cushman Powerline Trail in Gig Harbor, that’s it for Pierce County. A pity.
But public officials are waking up to the public demand for more “gentle ways.” Work will soon begin on extending the Foothills Trail to Buckley. In a year or two it may connect with Puyallup and Sumner and later to King County’s extensive trail network.
Tacoma officials are planning a Water Ditch Trail in South Tacoma, and a coalition called ForeverGreen is working with cities and towns to create a comprehensive trail system in the county.
The progress is frustratingly slow, but the awakening about the value of recreational trails is heartening. Trails are good for us, and for the Earth.