By Jon Snyder, founding publisher of Out There Monthly

I wish there was an automatic people-counter on the newly paved portion of the Fish Lake Trail. Annecdotal evidence suggests that the mild winter and the long wait for the new trail segments has combined for an explosion of users. This winter also saw a $2 million dollar federal allocation towards the missing middle link of the trail. If the project can raise an additional $2 million there will be enough money to build two bridges to cross two active rail lines that currently interrupt the trail. After that all that would remain is “phase 4’’ of the trail—providing good linkage past High Bridge Park to the Sandifur Bridge where Fish Lake could connect with the Centennial Trail and by extension the Idaho border. Then it would be time to celebrate with a golden spike somewhere. If the success of an unfinished Fish Lake Trail is any indication, folks in our area are trail crazy and hungry for more. My list of other trails I’d like to see completed:

  • Mt. Spokane to Spirit Lake, ID Mountain Bike route: Being worked on right now by a private operator for possible opening in 2011.
  • Ben Burr Trail extension, lower South Hill: Needs to connect to the U-District and not t-bone into a cyclone fence at its east terminus.
  • Centennial Trail Missing Links: Among other things, there needs to be a way to get from West Central to SFCC. Maybe another bike/ped bridge across the river?
  • North/South Corridor/Children of the Sun Trail link to the Centennial Trail: Currently there is no planning for good connection here. There needs to be in order for the Centennial Trail to function as the “spine” for our whole trail system.
  • Ferry County 100-Mile+ Rail Trail Corridor to Canada: Folks in Ferry County are working their butts off on this. This could be one of the most beautiful routes in the Northwest if they can just keep it non-motorized.
  • Inland Empire Through Trail: This thousand-mile plus loop would be the Inland Northwest answer to the Appalachian Trail and is the dream of OTM Senior Editor Derrick Knowles. He just needs a year off to map it.

Every one of these projects would have tourism, livability, fitness, and transportation benefits. When do we need them? How soon is now?

Photo on the Fish Lake Trail.
Fish Lake Trail
Photo of biker and two horses with riders stopped on the trail.
Photo courtesy of Ferry County Rail Trail