In October I had the opportunity to give bike tour of Spokane trails to Ben Gettleman and Heather Deutsch, two visiting directors from the National Rails to Trails Conservancy. At OTM we spend a lot of time banging our heads against the wall trying to convince folks of the importance of everything from bike lanes to backcountry horse trails, so I was eager to get an outside perspective from two trails professionals on the Spokane scene.
I got an earful.
Both Deutsch and Gettleman believe Spokane has “lot’s of new project potential.” It was great to see them marvel at the river views from under the Monroe St. Bridge and on the west end of the Kendall Yards property.
They had specific observations. The Spokane River is our greatest advantage and disadvantage: stunning to look at-but hard to cross in key areas. The size of our community is great for trail development-big enough to have a sizeable base of users, yet small enough to get projects done that couldn’t happen in bigger cities. An unusual amount of abandoned railroads in this area are ripe for trail conversion. The centennial trail has the potential to be a major spine-even more so than it is now-connecting trails throughout the region. Several small-ticket projects on the table offer big connectivity opportunities.
One such project is Iron Bridge just North of Trent. This has the chance to be a terrific bike/ped bridge that can connect G.U. and the Centennial Trail to the Keystone Neighborhood, Liberty Park, and the Ben Bur Trail. Another could be Milwaukee Road Corridor. This rail bed runs from Chicago to Western Washington and includes the Route of the Hiawatha and the John Wayne Pioneer Trail in Western Washington. It enters our area near Tekoa and could possibly be connected to Spokane for a major regional connection.
Gettleman said Washington is way ahead of Idaho and Montana in acquiring trail right of way because of forward thinking policy decisions made in the 70s.
Go Washington! I say let’s continue to look to the future. Trails help alleviate problems with obesity, pollution, infrastructure, and sprawl. The Rails to Trails Conservancy has their national conference in Portland, Oregon next August. Let’s get a posse of trail builders to go down there and see what we can learn. There’s nothing to lose but right-of-way.
p.s. Vote for light rail!