This is scary.
Apparently, a simple typo was the only thing that prevented two eastern Washington legislators from giving away half the length of the cross-state John Wayne Pioneer Trail to adjacent landowners. [See my post from yesterday: “Proposed land grab threatens eastern John Wayne Pioneer Trail.”]
The Associated Press reports that the last-minute provision added to the state’s capital budget included language to shut down the John Wayne Pioneer Trail “from the Columbia River to the Columbia River.”
The authors of the provision, Republican Reps. Joe Schmick and Mary Dye, intended to close the trail from the Columbia River to the town of Malden, a distance of about 130 miles. That’s more than half the distance of the 253-mile John Wayne Pioneer Trail from North Bend to Tekoa on the Idaho border.
Because of the mistake, the language will have to be changed in the next legislative session.
Schmick and Dye told council members in Tekoa, which isn’t directly affected by the trail closure, that they plan to resubmit the provision. But now that their sneaky plan is out in the public, it certainly will face more scrutiny.
In fact, Ted Blaszak, a Tekoa city councilman and president of the Tekoa Trail & Trestle Association, says Snohomish legislator Hans Dunshee has promised a full hearing on the proposed trail closure in the next session. Originally, there was no public hearing or debate on the issue.
Bicycle travel destination
Why close 130 miles of trail? Schmick says it is little-used, it’s a fire hazard, and it attracts crime.
What the state really needs to do is make improvements to the neglected trail so it can take its deserved place among the top trail destinations in the US.
Unlike the popular crushed gravel trail closer to Seattle, the eastern half of the John Wayne Pioneer Trail remains extremely rugged ballast left behind when the railroad pulled up the tracks in the 1980s. Even so, some intrepid bicycle travelers still use it, and it’s used for the annual cross-state wagon pull by the John Wayne Pioneer Wagons and Riders Association.
Eastern Washington towns like Lind, Othello, Warden, Malden, Rosalia and Tekoa could certainly benefit from a steady stream of bicycle tourists using the corridor to travel across the state. As the route of the old Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad, it hooks up with popular bicycling trails in Idaho and Montana.
The section from the Snoqualmie Pass to Rattlesnake Lake is already a popular destination for bicyclists. The trail from Ellensburg to Rattlesnake Lake is included in the 860-mile Washington Parks bicycle route guide published by Adventure Cycling Association.