Buzz Grant doesn’t enjoy getting up at 4 a.m., but that’s precisely what the 72-year-old Puyallup resident will do June 4.
That is National Trail Day and the day of the annual Rainier to Ruston Relay, a 52-mile race from the Carbon River Entrance of the national park to Tacoma’s Ruston Way. The run is the biggest fundraiser of the year of the Foothills Rails-to-Trails Coalition, so Grant doesn’t mind setting his alarm so he can help out.
Grant is the coalition’s president, and on race day his job is to set up the trademark bell towers at 12 relay points along the course. Runners ring the bells as they pass and exchange running duties with a teammate. Relay teams can be as large six people. Ultra marathoners sometimes take on the entire course by themselves.
Grant says the money from the race is used by the coalition to advocate for trails. The organization donated $50,000 to pave a section of trail from Buckley to South Prairie. A ground-breaking ceremony for this section is planned June 7.
Setting up bell stands for the relay comes with a bit of pressure. The runners start at 7 a.m. and Grant says he and his crew must work fast to stay ahead of them. At least for the first four bell stands.
“Then we get far enough ahead that we can have a real nice lunch,” Grant said.
The finish line bell stand goes up in Marine Park in Tacoma about 1 p.m., well before the fastest runners arrive. Grant isn’t likely to wait around to see who wins.
“At 72, I’m just about done at that point,” Grant said. “I’ll go back and stop at the bell stands and see what’s happening, but I’m heading home to relax.”
Grant, like many of the coalition members who rise early to stage the race, envision a day when the Foothills Trail will extend the length of the course. He spends much of his free time advocating for the trail and working to improve sections. He figures he spends more time on the trail working than he does playing.
“I enjoy it immensely,” Grant said.
He’d just returned on Monday night from helping prepare a section of the trail for the race when we caught up with him to ask a few questions.
Q: What are your thoughts on plans falling through to use the old Puyallup River bridge to span the White River between Enumclaw and Buckley for the Foothills Trails?
A: To tell the truth, I’m just as happy that they are going to build a new bridge instead of using the old bridge. As I understand it, the powers that be analyzed it and determined that maintenance would be so great that we would be better off to build a new bridge. And I agree with them.
Q: The coalition has pledged more than $100,000 for upcoming trail projects (They’ve pledged $50,000 for the White River bridge), how do you raise that money?
A: It all comes from the R2R, the B&O (half marathon July 23) and membership. And we could use more membership. (Grant estimates the coalition has 400-450 members.) The people who use the trail, I would love to have them be members because we are the advocates of the trail.
Q: How did you first get involved with the coalition?
A: That goes back many years. I worked for a title insurance company and my boss thought I would do a good job examining titles on the railroad right of way. I started examining titles for the Foothills Trail and I got to the point where I knew most people’s names up and down that whole trail.
Then I saw the good that this whole idea was. What it can do for people. And I said, ‘That’s what I want to do with my time.’ … The trail is good for a lot of people. For exercise or just spending time with family.
Q: Is there a Foothills Trail project you enjoy the most?
A: I personally work on Cascade Junction up to the mountain. That is my favorite area. The beauty of the area is great. … I really want to connect to Mount Rainier. I doubt that I will ride it, but I want people to get on their bikes and ride or walk to the mountain. It will be great for the area.
Q: What other trail projects should people know about?
A: All this noise about the John Wayne Trail (Stretching from North Bend to the Washington-Idaho border). At my age, I don’t think I will ever ride it, but I feel it is my job to do what I can so the people of the future don’t get hoodwinked out of a cross-state trail.
The John Wayne Trail is a very viable thing and as the years go on, it will be much more important than it is today. I think someday it will be a very big deal.
… We’ve fought the battle of the Foothills Trails, I don’t think these mile-long sections that are problems on the John Wayne Trail are insurmountable. It might take some time. They have a lot of work to do, like a bridge across the Columbia River. The idea of going across the Columbia and looking down at the river really excites me.
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Rainier to Ruston Relay
When: June 4.
The Race: A 52-mile race from the Carbon River entrance to Mount Rainier National Park to Tacoma’s Ruston Way. Runners can cover the course alone or in relay teams as large as six people. Proceeds from the race go to the Foothills Rails-to-Trails Coalition.
Foothills Trail extension groundbreaking
The ceremony: Noon, June 7, . Refreshments provided by the Foothills Rails-to-Trails Coalition.
Location: The Buckley Trailhead of the Foothills Trail. From state Route 410, turn on state Route 165 and quickly veer left onto to River Road. Visitors should park along River Road. Starting at 11:30 a.m., shuttles will transport visitors from the Veterans Memorial (between Route 165 and Jefferson Avenue) to the groundbreaking ceremony.
The project: Work is beginning to link the Buckley section of trail to a completed scetion of trail on the way to South Prairie. Plans call for the trail to be connect to South Prairie in 2017.