Three tales about trails
I was excited to see work crews doing something at the northern point of the University of Washington Tacoma’s segment of the Prairie Line Trail.
I wasn’t sure what they were doing, but that they were doing anything at all meant the long-awaited trail project finally was being built. The UWT is leading the way toward creating a linear park on the historic rail line that brought the first Northern Pacific transcontinental trains to the West Coast.
The segment that runs diagonally through the downtown campus will become a bike and pedestrian trail with lighting, landscaping and seating areas along with the rain gardens that help bring stormwater treatment grants.
But then work ended and the trail segment was returned to its interim status — gravel filling the spaces between rails and ties with hydroseeded grass on the sides.
Mike Wark, director of external relations for the UWT, said the project has been delayed because construction bids all came back significantly over what was budgeted. The work I saw being done was soil remediation, which has been completed, he said.
Wark said the UWT would redraw the bid documents after looking for ways to reduce costs.
“We still plan to deliver what we promised,” Wark said.
The hope now is to go back out to bid early next year, start work in the spring and open the park next fall.
Which raises the question as to what the city of Tacoma is doing with the remaining segments of the trail, south of campus and between Pacific Avenue and the Foss Waterway.
While the UWT purchased the right of way through its campus, Tacoma is engaging in a complex trade with BNSF. That deal, however, still has not been finalized, though the city’s assistant economic development director, Martha Anderson, expects final documents for signatures this week or next.
In the meantime, Tacoma has applied for a $1.92 million grant from the Puget Sound Regional Council to build the segment between the Children’s Museum and Tacoma Art Museum.
Diane Wiatr, active transportation coordinator for the city, said the grant process will be very competitive with just $17 million in federal transportation dollars available for the four Puget Sound counties represented by the regional council. But this project was well-thought of by the regional council in the past, winning money in a previous phase for design work. Tacoma will know by December where this project placed.
The third trail tale is less uplifting after managers at Metro Parks Tacoma appear to have become the designated cold-water throwers on a fun idea to name a former slag heap at the Asarco smelter site.
Parks Commissioner Erik Hanberg and Tacoma Landmarks Commissioner Daniel Rahe together started a campaign to get the man-made peninsula named in honor of Tacoma native and globally known science fiction writer Frank Herbert.
It isn’t as random as it might sound. The “Dune” author was an early environmentalist, learning to love the outdoors as a kid. He later lamented the abuse being heaped on Puget Sound by industries, especially the smelter.
But the first staff response to the naming request asserts that because the slag peninsula is part of Point Defiance Park, it can’t be named Frank Herbert Park. Hanberg says he will keep pushing the idea, but Rahe wonders if the path of least resistance — pun intended — might be to lobby the city of Tacoma to instead name the new esplanade along the Point Ruston development after Herbert.
I’m not ready to let the parks bureaucracy prevail just yet, though. Anyone been to Owen Beach? If that is OK, then why not Frank Herbert Peninsula?
Take a look at the area Sunday during the Metro Parks/City of Tacoma Downtown to Defiance event (metroparkstacoma.org/downtowntodefiance). Traffic lanes will be closed along Schuster Parkway and Ruston Way between 8 a.m.-noon to allow runners, bicyclists and walkers to go from the Tacoma Dome to the park. They will complete the trek on a temporary trail that will finally link the Ruston Way water walk with the heart of the park.Peter Callaghan: 253-597-8657