County pays $1 million for land to close gap in Foothills Trail

Tacoma News TribuneNovember 22, 2013 

A crystal clear greets riders as they pedal through Orting on the Foothills Trail during the Tour de Pierce summer bicycle ride Sunday, June 30, 2013. Pierce County finalized the purchase Thursday of a crucial, missing link for connecting the popular trail from South Prairie to Buckley.

DEAN J. KOEPFLER — Staff photographer

Pierce County has purchased a crucial, missing link for connecting the popular Foothills Trail from South Prairie to Buckley.

The price tag: $1.05 million. That’s what the county is paying for a strip of land through Dwight Partin’s RV park in South Prairie.

The purchase represents a major step toward completing the walking and biking trail whose main 20-mile corridor stretches from a trail head just east of Puyallup to Buckley. It runs atop an abandoned railroad bed.

Partin and the county agreed on a price in April for the 1.36 acres, but negotiations continued over details of the agreement, said Matt Hansen, Partin’s attorney. The sale of the 59,000-square-foot area was made final Thursday.

The county’s negotiations with Partin date back to at least 2006. 

“People want to know it’s finished and we can move on,” Partin said. 

Buzz Grant, president of the Foothills Rails-to-Trails Coalition, was ecstatic over the acquisition.

“After all this time, it’s finally done,” Grant said. “I’m absolutely flabbergasted and very, very happy.”

The paved Foothills Trail covers 15 miles from Puyallup to South Prairie. The 12-foot-wide trail 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. Some visionaries have dreamed even bigger, their hopes set on a recreation trail network connecting Mount Rainier National Park to Tacoma and on to Gig Harbor over the Narrows Bridge.

The county said Friday it will continue efforts to buy property to fill in the remaining gaps in the Puyallup-to-Buckley segment. Those gaps make up less than 3 miles of trail in two sections.

The county also will seek grants to begin work extending the trail through the newly acquired property. No estimate was given on when the section will be ready for use.
County Executive Pat McCarthy called the purchase “an exciting development.” 

“This is an important milestone as we strive to complete the vision for an uninterrupted trail connecting Puyallup, Orting, South Prairie and Buckley with points beyond,” McCarthy said in a statement.

In June, the County Council approved a supplemental budget from McCarthy that included funds to purchase the property. Of that, $130,000 is from the paths and trails fund. Another $300,000 is a loan from the county’s equipment rental and revolving fund.
That $430,000, combined with money already in the parks and recreation budget, will pay for the Partin property.

Relationships between the county and Partin have been contentious at times. In 2010, the County Council authorized condemnation proceedings. Negotiations carried on under that cloud. In April, Partin said he was ready to sell.

The county bought a 40-foot-wide strip of land through Partin’s 40 acres that include his RV park.

Partin said in April that 59 of the 105 RV sites in his South Prairie Creek RV Park will have to be relocated elsewhere on his property. Partin will not be able to locate RVs south of the trail. The purchase price takes into account this and other impacts on Partin’s property.

Partin and the county have disagreed in the past over where on his property the trail will go. Hansen said it will run through former railroad right-of-way in the southern section of Partin’s property.

In an email Wednesday, Partin credited County Council member Dan Roach, R-Bonney Lake, and council staff member Mike Kruger “for stepping in and helping break the ice for this agreement and getting the parties working together.”

Partin also said the prosecutor’s office and the county’s parks and recreation department “have all been very respectful towards the needs of my business and my tenants’ needs.”

Steve Maynard: 253-597-8647 steve.maynard@thenewstribune.com @TNTstevemaynard

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