Foothills Trail -- Another stretch to be
completed this summer; link to Buckley is nest on boosters' work
The pace is picking up in paving and linking the Foothills Trail,
and by late summer trail enthusiasts will have an even longer trail
The unpaved area between the South Prairie and
Orting sections, part of which runs next to South Prairie Creek,
will see construction beginning May 12. Workers have 105 working
days to complete the three and a half to four mile section of trail,
and it is anticipated to be finished by August.
indeed be one of the most beautiful areas and the most sensitive
areas, of course, as it runs along the South Prairie Creek, which is
a salmon-spawning area," said Ernie Bay, president of the Foothills
The Foothills Trail, a 12-foot wide asphalt
trail used for walking, bicycles and skating and also has a soft
shoulder path for horses, will be more than 12 miles long after the
South Prairie/Orting link is completed.
Bay said it will be
satisfying to see another section of the trail completed, but the
completion of the trail has been a long time coming.
effort to create one single trail began in 1984 when two people, one
of whom was Buckley's Doug (Doc) Tate, generated the idea. The
Foothills Trail Coalition was formed in 1987 to assist the Pierce
County Parks Department in building the trail. Bay said the trail
has generated a lot of controversy over the years, but the idea to
see a completed trail has hung on.
"Well, you always meet with much of opposition when you're
putting a trail in," Bay said, stating a lot of the opposition came
from absentee land owners.
Of the towns not in favor of the
trail, Orting presented the biggest opposition, but Bay said it is
now one of the most supportive towns.
"The only opposition we
face now really is Carbonado," Bay said.
Carbonado has been
reticent about the trail from the very beginning, Town Councilman
Jay Argo said.
"Carbonado is different from the other
communities," he said, adding the other cities just let the county
come in and take over the trail for free.
"It's our own trail
system, it's just not what the county envisions," he
Argo said when Burlington Northern Railroad abandoned
the railroad right of way, instead of the land going to individual
land owners, it was turned over to the town in order to keep the
county and the trail out.
"They decided that 'if we don't
want it, this is what we have to do to keep it out,'" Argo
But Argo points out it has been more than two years
since the county or anybody else has approached the town about the
trail, and the trail is not a concern to town residents.
other than the initial response given to the county by Carbonado
concerning the trail, the town hasn't had anything to do with the
rest of the trail construction.
"It's not like Carbonado has
delayed it one day," Argo said.
In fact, the trail has become
a non-issue for the town because the trail has a long way to go
before it reaches Carbonado town limits.
Argo does think,
however, the construction of the trail through Carbonado is
inevitable, but he stated adamantly the town will not give up its
land easily, and if the town does give up the land to the county,
Carbonado expects some concessions in return.
"It's going to
happen, sooner or later, and it's a good idea, don't get me wrong,
it's a good idea, but not without some economic incentive for
Carbonado," Argo said.
Because the town has little tax base
and little money, it does not want to give up its prime piece of
property, currently designated for commercial use, without receiving
some kind of financial compensation and other benefits.
said the trail runs dead-center of the 100-foot wide railroad
right-of-way, which essentially prevents the town from doing
anything else with the land if the trail is paved. He also doesn't
think the trail would benefit the town financially if it was allowed
to go through Carbonado, as the town doesn't have much to make
people want to get off the trail. He said it would benefit the town
a lot more financially if a gas station was built on the land,
although Carbonado does not have any plans to see that
That's why the town wants the trail to be worth its
while economically, Argo said.
"And yes we're stubborn enough
to just sit on it in the mean time and not care," he
"As it is, right now we're not getting nothing and
we're not giving (the county) nothing."
Argo also said the
town does not have the money to maintain the trail once it is paved
and becomes the town's responsibility.
Bay argues the money
to maintain the trail is less than street maintenance, and would
cost the same as it would to maintain a park.
But the issue
still has a couple of years at least, according to Bay - more,
according to Argo - to reach Carbonado, and Argo said the town will
deal with the issue when it comes.
In the mean time, more
stretches of trail have to be completed.
After the South
Prairie/Orting trail is completed, the highest priority will be
paving the trail between South Prairie and Buckley, which is
scheduled to begin in 2005, which Bay admits is being
That particular trail, Bay said, is important
because Buckley is one of the main hubs along the trail. It is also
expected to be difficult as the trail will be moved to higher
After that, the Foothills Trail will have to be
connected from South Prairie to Wilkeson and then from Wilkeson to
The ultimate goal is to get the trail connected
through Carbonado, where they can then connect to the trails in
Mount Rainier National Park.
"But we're taking it one piece
at a time," Bay said.
Jessica Keller can be reached at email@example.com