Gig Harbor ready to build what may be its final phase of Cushman Trail

As the marine fog lifted from the Gig Harbor waterfront, Debra Ross and Charlotte Hirsch enjoyed an eagle’s-eye view of the sun’s reflection off the harbor. Completing the final climb of their 3.2-mile round trip walk along the Cushman Trail, the friends neared the trail’s Grandview Street trail head.

Hirsch, Ross and another friend have walked the paved trail every Monday, Wednesday and Friday for the last two years — rain or shine.

“It’s exercise for body and mind, but also friendship,” said Ross, who lives downtown.

The trail runs 4.9 miles, stretching from the eastern edge of the peninsula near the Tacoma Narrows bridges to 96th Street Northwest, not far from Burnham Drive.

Soon, work will begin to add another mile to the trail, linking it to the fast-growing Gig Harbor North area.

“The trail is very popular around the area and people have been asking ‘Hey, city, when are you going to extend it to Borgen Boulevard?’” said city engineer Trent Ward .

By the end of August, construction should be underway to extend the trail to the Home Depot store on Borgen. There, a new trail head will be built with parking and bathrooms, similar to that at Grandview.

A tentative completion date is the end of this year or early 2015, but that won’t be finalized until contractors submit a schedule.

This is the city’s last planned extension of the trail for now, Ward said. There’s also talk of building connections to link with the trail from surrounding neighborhoods, but the city doesn’t have immediate plans for that work.

The city has $2.5 million in federal and state grant money to build the 1-mile section. The grant money will be combined with $1.4 million from the city’s Hospital Benefit Zone fund.

City planners originally hoped construction would begin at the end of 2013, but it took longer to obtain federal permits because the trail will cross wetlands and other environmentally sensitive areas.

Ross and Hirsch have walked the trail since 2009, when the hilly section overlooking downtown opened. The first phase of the trail, which runs from near the Narrows bridges to the Kimball Drive park and ride, opened in 2002.

Although the majority of the trail runs through city limits, some of it passes through unincorporated areas. Pierce County has helped finance construction.

There’s talk of ultimately extending the trail all the way to Lake Cushman, on the southeastern border of Olympic National Park. That would require coordination between multiple counties and municipalities.

The trail is a place where people can run, walk, bike and push children in strollers away from busy roads while enjoying a natural setting, Hirsch said.

The women were happy to learn this week that the Gig Harbor City Council had approved construction contracts needed to extend their regular walking route.

“To be able to go from the Narrows bridges to the Harbor Hill area, it’s truly a great trail system,” Ross said on their Wednesday morning walk.

Nordland Construction NW will be paid $1.57 million to build the section of trail from 96th to Burnham, while RV Associates will receive $1.38 million to build the final phase from Burnham to Borgen. David Evans and Associates will be paid $464,895 as consultant on both phases of the project.

Like other parts of the trail, the newest section will follow the Tacoma Public Utilities right of way along the route cleared for power lines. It will include a bridge similar to the one along the trail between Grandview and Rosedale streets. At its highest point, the bridge will rise 20 feet above wetlands.

“That will be the best part,” Ward said. “It will be beautiful over the wetlands.”