The attempt by two eastern Washington state legislators to give away 130 miles of public rail-trail to adjacent private landowners is raising more public awareness to the possibilities for the John Wayne Pioneer Trail. [See “Proposed land grab threatens eastern John Wayne Pioneer Trail“]Now a representative of the John Wayne Pioneer Wagons and Riders Association has written a letter to the legislators extolling the wonderful scenery of the eastern part of the nation’s longest rail-trail (253 miles), as well as the work by his group to make improvements.
It makes me wonder how this trail could benefit the tourism economies of the eastern Washington towns it traverses. Improvements to the trail, which is now rocky ballast, could draw long-distance bicycle travelers using the old railroad corridors that link Seattle to Idaho and Montana.
Here’s the letter from Tom Short, Trail Development Coordinator for the John Wayne Pioneer Wagons and Riders Association, as it appears in the Tekoa Trail and Trestle Association:
Reprensentaive Joe Schmick and Mary Dye, 9th Legislative District:
I am Tom Short, Trail Development Coordinator for the John Wayne Pioneer Wagons and Riders Association.. Our group was organized to help establish the John Wayne Pioneer Trail within the Iron House State Park and has worked for the last 35+ years to promote and improve the Trail. I became involved about 15 years ago and have chaired the improvement Planing and Work Parties for the last 8 years.
I have read your statements that the Trail has not been improved since its inception in 1980 from the Columbia River to Malden. From your statements I can’t tell if you have actually been on the Trail or just have observed the Trail from you car where it parallels the highway.
Attached is our”Trail Inventory” covering the Trail from Easton to Tekoa. Please take a look, especially the sections from the Columbia River to Malden. This is one of the most beautiful sections of the whole Trail and the Rock Lake Area is the true Jewel of the whole Trail. We have listed all the gates, trestles, and tunnels and suggested action. We have submitted 5 projects To Parks that we would like to complete before next spring.
No this section has not been improved to the same standards as from Rattlesnake Lake to EllensburgI, but I want to assure you that this section of the Trail is very different from the first time that I rode my horse across the State on our Annual Cross State Ride. Parks has significantly improved the tread by grading and removing rocks. To make it easier to use the Trail we, working with Parks, initiated a plan to develop Group Camping Sites about a days ride apart on Parks Land. We now have developed three sites
We have spent $20000 on seed, equipment rental, equipment donation, materials, and hauling away garbage and old broken ties. Our folks have donated 1200 hours of labor grubbing out rocks, garbage, and wire, as well as welding and running equipment. All three communities have been very helpful with loaning equipment, providing camping space, etc
Lind, WA: At the corner of Van Natter and the Trail, 3 acres with hitch rails, mounting blocks and fire pit. We now think that it is too small, but a neighbor has volunteered to take the overflow. Within walking distance to the Slims Restaurant and Bar and Jim’s Market.
Ralston, WA: Four acres, with hitch rails, mounting blocks, fire pit and this fall we are going to restore the Well House, the last Milwaukee Road Building left in this area.
Revere, WA: Six plus acres with hitch rails, mounting blocks, and fire pit. This was our first one taking the worlds worst camping site into the most popular camp site on the whole John Wayne Pioneer Trail. By popular demand we now have a rest day at Revers and folks ride the adjoining WA State Fish and Wildlife managed 2600 acres on Rock Creek and the thousands of acres of the Escur Ranch, managed by BLM.
Other groups have decked the trestles between Pine City and Malden. We have kept the trees trimmed in the same for the last several years.
We would love to meet with you, at your convenience, especially out on the Trail