A scenic five-mile trail that winds through Puyallup’s western city limits, the Puyallup Riverwalk Trail provides year-round recreation opportunities for local runners, walkers and cyclists.
The trail ultimately came to be what is it today thanks to the efforts of Dr. Ernie Bay.
With the goal of providing alternative transportation and increasing trail accessibility for all, The Friends of the Puyallup Riverwalk Trail group works diligently with that mission in mind.
When Bay first moved to Puyallup in 1975, he quickly realized the community needed a trail along the Puyallup River. While Bay would encounter a series of setbacks during the process of establishing the Puyallup Riverwalk Trail, the longtime Puyallup resident worked tirelessly to see a riverfront trail in Puyallup.
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The first setback was in 1981, when as president of Kiwanis, Bay tried to organize a group to create a riverfront trail, but was warned by several members of the community that there were already a number of organizations that tried to get a trail started but never succeeded.
Six years later, the city of Puyallup received a $10,000 grant from the Department of Ecology, the first key step in the process of creating the Puyallup Riverwalk Trail.
In 1988, Bay organized the Puyallup River Trail Boosters to rally support to help pass a bond measure to create the trail, which finally succeeded after three attempts on the ballot.
Finally, Bay’s efforts paid off and the first section of the Puyallup Riverwalk Trail was completed and dedicated in 1998. While the first completion of the trail meant success after more than 15 years of diligence and hard work to better the community, the Puyallup River Trail Boosters quickly dissolved.
Wanting to keep momentum going to extend the trail, Bay tried to form a new group in support of the trail, but those efforts quickly fizzled after a couple of meetings as well.
It wasn’t until several years later, when Bay was joined by Dr. Bob Kastama, that the duo finally succeeded in establishing The Friends of the Puyallup Riverwalk Trail organization. Over the years, Bay and Kastama, both retirees, have recruited people from all walks of life to join their group.
Now, members have helped other organizations jump on board, such as the Daffodil Valley Volkssport Association and local veterans associations.
“We created what we consider an important commuting and recreating trail system,” Bay said. “The group is passionate about creating and maintaining that.”
The Friends of the Puyallup Riverwalk Trail meets every Monday at a restaurant in Puyallup, where the group hosts guest speakers ranging from state representatives to members of the Puyallup Police Department. The meetings cover how best to impact public policy, review of any safety issues on the trail and most importantly how to make decisions for the betterment of the Puyallup community.
“This group really gets stuff done,” said Bill Hilton, chair of the group. “We’ve done tremendous things over the years. It’s fun to see.”
The group has a strong relationship with the city of Puyallup, one where the city does most of the maintenance on the trail, but both Hilton and Bay say their group is the eyes and ears for the city, out and about on the trail at least weekly.
“(Friends of the Puyallup Riverwalk Trail) helps create and improve the community I want to live in,” Bay said.