Protecting and funding the John Wayne Pioneer Trail will be one of Washington Bikes’ priorities heading into the 2017 legislative session and beyond. The threat to the trail’s public ownership that emerged at the tail end of the 2015 legislative capital budget process ironically has served to galvanize widespread public support for the trail — Friends of the John Wayne Pioneer Trail formed not just to protect it but to promote, maintain, and develop the nation’s longest rail-trail. At their board retreat in September in South Cle Elum the Friends discussed formation of a coalition and development of a common legislative strategy that can be supported by a broad range of interests.
Update from State Parks and Recreation Commission
This recap below from Peter Herzog, Assistant Director of the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission, provides a concise description of how State Parks has responded to legislative threats and questions about trail management, along with the budget priorities that came out of the Advisory Committee that met several times in 2015. Development of an agency’s recommended budget request is an important step in preparing for the legislative session. We thank the Advisory Committee, State Parks and Recreation Commission, and Parks staff for their work on this.
(Note on usage: The John Wayne Pioneer Trail is also known as the Iron Horse State Park Trail.)
State Parks and Recreation Commission Actions in July at Clarkston
The initial phase of the planning process ended in July with formal adoption by the State Parks and Recreation Commission of a management plan for the trail section from Lind to Malden (see PDF Iron Horse State Park Trail Recommendations Report). The plan includes:
- A resolution expressing commitment to Washington’s cross-state trail system and authorizing the Director to work with private and public entities to achieve a cross-state trail system. ;
- Land classifications for the trail which are essentially internal zoning for the trail corridor that provides guidance on the intensity of use and development;
- A long-term park boundary identifying the area desired for future recreation trail management, which includes the DNR-managed portion of the old Milwaukee Road corridor, the active rail line between Port of Royal Slope and Warden, and all public and private property gaps between Lind and Malden.
- Direction to staff to work with trail stakeholders to recommend a new trail name that considers establishing a broadly recognizable and marketable identity for the trail;
- Direction to work with the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to develop a transition plan for the DNR-managed trail corridor between the Columbia River at Beverly Bridge and Lind, with a goal of eventual management by State Parks. In Parks conversations with DNR they have indicated a desire to move such a transition forward.
New State Parks Area Manager
State Parks is pleased to introduce new Area Manager, Audra Sims, for the trail segment between Lind and the Idaho Border. Audra also has the Columbia Plateau State Park Trail in her portfolio, along with a number of other parks in the Blue Mountain Park Area. She comes with a strong background in state parks, general recreation and resource protection.
Her first order of business will be the hiring of vacant ranger positions, including her primary assistant and another park ranger. These key hires in themselves will provide a larger measure of responsiveness and presence along the linear trails in her area. As she transitions into her new role, Audra will develop a strategy to best use social media and traditional meetings to provide interested parties and adjacent property owners with updates on trail work and news.
Ongoing Stakeholder Group
Based on direction provided by the State Parks and Recreation Commission, staff is developing a process to work with trail stakeholders on an ongoing basis. Initial items for the stakeholder consideration include a new trail name and improving the trail permit and property owner notification process. We expect this stakeholder group to be making recommendations to Commission in 2017.
2017-19 Capital Budget Request
The State Parks and Recreation Commission authorized staff to submit a statewide capital budget totaling approximately $96 million. State Parks’ capital budget request includes several projects for Iron Horse State Park (see PDF Recommended State Capital and Grant Projects – 2017-19 Biennium). These include:
John Wayne Pioneer Trail Lind to Malden Phase 1 Development ($1,539,000)
This is the first of several phases for the trail segment between Lind and Malden. Future phases will address construction of the Cow Creek Trestle, repair of the tunnels and trestles at Rock Lake and construction of the trailheads. Cost for this phase has been revised from earlier estimates. The first phase includes:
- Design and engineering for Cow Creek Trestle located between Marengo and Ralston,
- Design and engineering tunnels 43 and 44 and trestles EE-128 and EE-130 along Rock Lake,
- Rock fall scaling and removal along Rock Lake, and
- Design and permitting for trailheads at Kenova, Rock Lake, Revere, Marengo, Ralston, and Lind.
Tekoa and Rosalia Trailheads ($999,000)
This project will develop trailhead facilities including sanitary facilities, parking, and orientation signing at Tekoa and Rosalia.
John Wayne Trail – Repair Tunnels Trestles Culverts Ph. 3 ($606,000)
This phased project addresses continued implementation of the Iron Horse State Park Trail Master Plan and will complete needed assessments and repairs to trail trestles, tunnels, culverts, and surfacing within Iron Horse State Park Trail west of Lind. The project will also develop trailheads, campsites, restrooms, and other trail facilities. This project will also address the Surface Drainage Liner over the Tunnel 50 East Portal. The first biennium will address design and permitting. Construction will occur during subsequent biennia and is anticipated to cost approximately $4.3 million.
Kittitas Depot Stabilize and Upgrade Foundation ($110,000)
This project did not make the final capital budget request and may be pursued in future biennia.
State Parks has secured grant funding for several projects and is seeking additional grant funds to improve Iron Horse State Park Trail. Projects include:
Malden to Rosalia Grading, Graveling, and Trailheads ($1,745,000)
State Parks has submitted a 2017-19 Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program (WWRP) grant request to permit and construct grading and surfacing improvements to the 9-mile section of Iron Horse State Park Trail between the towns of Malden and Rosalia, as well as adding a trailhead facility in Malden. The primary intent of this project is to upgrade the trail to a standard consistent with the other improved sections of the trail and to make this section accessible under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
The project scope includes reducing the grade in five areas (road crossings/former bridge sites) to 10% or less and surfacing the trail with crushed rock. The project would also likely include signing and gates. State Parks has a grant from the State Recreation and Conservation Office (RCO) for $20,000 and a donation of $40,000 from the estate of John Kono to complete design and engineering for the project. Bid-ready construction documents will be complete by October 2016. State Parks anticipates applying for an approximately $1,200,000 grant and additional funds donated by the Kono estate for construction in the 2017-19 biennium. This grant proposal will also include construction of a trailhead facility in Malden.
Renslow Trestle ($1,246,000)
State Parks has submitted a WWRP grant request to renovate the 680-foot-long historic Renslow Trestle that connects two portions of the Iron Horse Trail separated by I-90 between the town of Ellensburg and the Columbia River. Built in the early 1900s, the Renslow Trestle is one of Washington state’s iconic steel structures used to carry trains of the Minnesota St. Paul Railway over large geographical gaps throughout the West. New concrete decking, railing, and safety fencing on the Renslow Trestle will improve safety and will complete the “missing link” eliminating the last arduous and convoluted detour between Ellensburg and the Columbia River, resulting in 32 miles of continuous trail. Crossing the renovated trestle will also add a new and exciting element to the Iron Horse experience.
Tekoa Trestle ($1,534,000)
State Parks has submitted a WWRP grant request to complete design, permit, and construction improvements to the 975-foot Tekoa trestle. The project would add concrete decking to the steel railroad trestle and install safety railings, making the bridge usable by hikers, cyclists, and equestrians.
Tekoa Trailhead Acquisition
State Parks has secured funding and is in the process of acquiring land for a trailhead in Tekoa. We anticipate acquisition of this property to be completed by June 2017. Funding for this acquisition came from WWRP. While the grant request for this property was originally $1,000,000, we expect the final cost of acquisition to be significantly less.
2017-19 Operating Budget Request
State Parks has incorporated $400,000 into its statewide operations budget package for Iron Horse services. These funds are intended to provide an on-trail staff presence as well as non-staff costs including noxious weed spraying contracts, sterilant application for the trail surface, signs, fencing and gates.
Work Underway to Address Concerns Raised by Adjacent Property Owners
Maintenance: State Parks completed four weeks of Washington Conservation Corps (WCC) crew time working on removing vegetation and clearing rock fall along Rock Lake, including one week of excavator time working on rock clearing to allow vehicle access. They are continuing to collect mapping and location data for weeds, fencing, and other issues along the trail. State Parks has been meeting and coordinating with weed board representatives in Adams and Whitman County. Trail staff has been meeting with adjacent landowners as the opportunity arises to address their concerns.
Staffing: Parks extended the existing trail staff position into the next biennium and they look forward to evaluating options in the 2017-19 budget for a permanent staff model that allows them to continue basic stewardship.
Fall/winter maintenance: This fall and winter, staff will mow areas of heavy vegetation, spray sterilant on the trail, repair and/or replace gates and start to work in areas with identified adjacent property owner fencing issues. State Parks is in the process of developing a plan for the work that will occur in 2017.
Motorized Non-Recreation Trail Use Permits
In September State Parks staff traveled to eastern Washington and met with nine farmers and ranchers to discuss the best method to authorize their reasonable motorized use of the trail. These discussions have resulted in a plan to tailor one version of the motorized use permit for agricultural uses and another version for ranchers. Also of significance is the fact that all nine applicants have agreed to provide annual trail improvements and trail maintenance in lieu of paying any form of annual rent.
State Parks has been working initially with Brandon Spencer and he has agreed to assist State Parks staff in contacting and developing agreements with other ranchers along the trail. State Parks staff expects to provide all current motorized use applicants with a permit offer prior to December 1, 2016. Following this initial round of permit offers, staff will work to identify any additional landowners who may require reasonable use of the trail to manage their farm or ranch but to date have not contacted State Parks.
Sign up for the Washington Bikes e-news to stay on top of action alerts when it’s time to speak up in the legislature and in your town for the JWPT and other trails and bike connections.