Pierce County is preparing to buy a crucial, missing link for connecting the Foothills Trail from South Prairie to Buckley.
The county has wanted to acquire land through Dwight Partin’s RV park in South Prairie for at least 15 years. In 2010, the County Council authorized condemnation proceedings to secure Partin’s property.
Partin, 70, said he’s ready to sell. He and the county have reached an agreement on a price for 1.36 acres to extend the trail through South Prairie Creek RV Park, said Matt Hansen, Partin’s attorney.
County Executive Pat McCarthy submitted a supplemental budget to the County Council last week that includes $430,000 toward the purchase of land from Partin for the trail.
“We’re this close to closing the deal,” McCarthy said. “But we need some funds to do it.”
When told that Partin had agreed on a selling price, the leader of a group supporting the walking and biking trail said he was pleased.
“I want the trail to get through the trailer park so it can start connecting to land on the other side,” said Buzz Grant, president of the Foothills Rails-to-Trails Coalition. “It has been a piece of property that has stopped extension of the Foothills Trail.”
Neither Hansen nor Partin would say how much money the county has agreed to pay.
“It is a fair settlement, given the circumstances of the case,” Hansen said.
County deputy prosecutor Pete Philley declined comment.
“We’re still in negotiations,” Philley said.
The paved Foothills Trail covers 15 miles from Puyallup to South Prairie. It also includes a two-mile stretch in Buckley, and short segments east of South Prairie and in Wilkeson. When complete, the trail will cover more than 28 miles.
Hansen said the county wants to buy a 40-foot-wide strip of land through Partin’s 40 acres that include his RV park. Partin said 59 of the 105 RV sites in his park would have to be relocated elsewhere on his property.
Partin and the county have disagreed in the past over where on his property the trail would go. Partin said the trail would run through former railroad right-of-way in the southern section of his property.
Partin would not be able to locate RVs south of the trail, Hansen said. The purchase price takes into account this and other impacts on Partin’s property, including the cost to relocate the RV sites. Relocation costs for tenants is not part of the agreement. Hansen said he wasn’t sure whether tenants would qualify for government-funded relocation assistance.
When asked why he’s agreed to sell now, Partin said, “Do I have a choice?”
Partin said his options are to sell or go to court over condemnation.
“Why go to court if you don’t have to,” he said. “It’s far better to negotiate than litigate. So that’s what we did.
“We’ve come to an agreement on the cost” of the land, Partin said. “We’re working now on some of the smaller details of it.”
Grant said the county has sought to acquire land from Partin for the trail since about 1997.
“It isn’t closed until the deed is recorded,” he said.
McCarthy’s budget proposes that $130,000 from the paths and trails fund be used for the purchase of the property. Another $300,000 would be funded by a loan from the county’s equipment rental and revolving fund. That $430,000 plus money already in the parks and recreation budget would enable the county to buy the land from Partin, county officials said.
The County Council won’t take action for at least five weeks on the supplemental budget.
Acquiring the Partin property is a major step toward completing the Foothills Trail, said Kathy Kravit-Smith, the county’s parks and recreation director.
Other properties still need to be purchased to connect the trail to Buckley, she said.
“It’s going to cost millions to get it built and paved,” Kravit-Smith said. “It’s one more step toward that ultimate goal.”