Those who dream of expanding trails in the South Sound have cause to celebrate – especially those who envision a regional rails-to-trails system.
Among the progress made in recent months:• Last month, the first leg of the 1-mile Prairie Line Trail in downtown Tacoma opened between South 17 and 21st streets on the University of Washington Tacoma campus.
That section is actually the middle leg of an urban trail that eventually will stretch from the Brewery District through the Museum District to the Thea Foss Waterway. It runs along the former Northern Pacific Railroad line, which has historic significance for Tacoma. The next leg, the northernmost from South 17th to Dock streets, is in the fnal design stage.
When completed, the trail will be a great place for downtown workers and UWT students to stretch their legs, and it will give visitors a new way to enter and see that part of the city. People who want a longer trip can access the Esplanade along the Foss or take Dock Street on to Schuster Parkway and the Ruston Way waterfront.• In June, Puyallup opened a quarter-mile stretch linking its 5-mile Riverwalk Trail to the 15-mile uninterrupted stretch of Pierce County’s scenic Foothills Trail. That stretch begins near the former Van Lierop’s farm store and goes through Orting and on to South Prairie.
A portion of the 5-mile Riverwalk Trail winds through a residential neighborhood, and most of the connection to the Foothills Trail goes along a busy stretch of highway. Still, having a 20-mile-long trail from Puyallup to South Prairie is a great resource, sure to attract visitors for the river, farm and mountain views.
• Probably the most exciting development took place not outdoors but inside Pierce County Council chambers. The council recently voted unanimously to move forward on property condemnations that finally will enable completion of the Foothills Trail.
It took condemnation to acquire the land needed to complete the trail segment from South Prairie to Buckley. Two property owners were holding out for far more than the strips of land were worth at fair market value – the point where the county begins negotiation.
The land needed for the 12-foot-wide trail is a strip about 20 feet wide at most points. One owner wanted $400,000 for that strip when his entire property is only assessed at $440,000.
The council was right to move forward on condemnation after years of trying to work with the property owners. Now a judge will set a fair price for the property if the owners don’t settle with the county.
Time is of the essence. The county has a good shot at a $2.75 million state grant that would fund half the $5.5 million cost of finishing the trail – but only if it has acquired the remaining land.
Future plans involve linking Buckley to Enumclaw and then continuing on to the Maple Valley area in King County.
This important step on the path to a much greater trail system can’t be taken until the condemnation process is completed. Let’s get it done and move on.