“Wording error” saved John Wayne Pioneer Trail from private takeover

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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.”

John Wayne Pioneer Trail at TrailLink.com

John Wayne Pioneer Trail at TrailLink.com

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.

Cyclists emerge from Snoqualmie Tunne;l

Cyclists emerge from Snoqualmie Tunne;l

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.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.bikingbis.com/2015/09/23/wording-error-saved-john-wayne-pioneer-trail-from-private-takeover/


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  1. Attached below is the response from Rep. Joe Schmick’s office to constituents contacting him about the John Wayne Pioneer Trail issue.

    Interesting to note that he chose to take budget addendum route instead of submitting a bill with public hearings because he didn’t think turning over 130 miles of public land to adjacent private landowners warranted the attention of 147 legislators. …..

    — “First, with regard to addressing this issue through the Capital Budget, it’s important to note there are several different ways to deal with issues in the Legislature. Sometimes, ideas are implemented into law when a piece of legislation – a bill – moves through the entire legislative process and is signed into law by the governor. Other times, issues are addressed in the budgetary process with line items and budget addendums.
    Because so much of this year’s legislative focus was on education funding and the state Supreme Court’s McCleary decision, I didn’t think this issue would warrant the attention of 147 legislators and chose to find a solution through the budgetary process. However, since the language was not properly written by the Code Reviser’s Office, the legislative process will now move ahead with a robust discussion with the public and all stakeholders.
    While I agree that the trails are a top priority for recreational activity, since the state has been responsible for this trail beginning in 1980, no maintenance or improvements have occurred from the Columbia River to the town of Malden in Whitman County. It has clearly NOT been a priority to either the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) or Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission (State Parks) to do any maintenance on the trail – let alone improvements.
    This issue came to fruition as a response to my constituents in the 9th Legislative District. The purpose to close a portion of the John Wayne Trail is in response to several factors. There have been persistent complaints from property owners for years that have the trail go through their property. Those include trespassing off the trail and onto private property, theft, scavenging on private property, and leaving junk along the trail including large appliances. When the property owners are asked how many people they see on the trail annually estimates range from less than 10 to perhaps 40. I have now personally been on portions of the trail under discussion and have now added liability issues to the list of concerns. There are liability issues from falling rocks, people climbing on structures along the trail, and people traveling through areas that are closed for public safety reasons. This includes hazardous trestles that are extremely dangerous yet extremely attractive for adventure seekers. The state of Washington and most likely the adjacent land owners would be held accountable and liable should an accidental fall occur.
    State Parks is responsible for maintenance, weed control and keeping the trail clear for 50 feet on both sides from the center of the tracks which means a minimum of a 100 foot strip along the entire trail. It is sad to say that a few people have caused a lot of problems for private property owners on both sides of the trail. But because of all the problems, this was a proposal I put forward and now we will have a robust discussion about it. Under the proposal, the state will maintain a permanent easement for future rail use or utilities in perpetuity.
    I would like to challenge the people who make use of this trail to be part of a solution for its future. The concerns that the adjacent landowners have are real and have to be dealt with. The fact remains that the problems listed earlier exist and the adjacent landowners are frankly at wits-end. We need to have a working relationship with the landowners and the users of the trails. I feel the liability of the state on these trails cannot be under emphasized and a solution needs to be found quickly. When I suggest that you think “out of the box,” I firmly believe if you want this trail to remain open, these issues have to be addressed.”

    • Scott McBeath on September 29, 2015 at 8:21 pm
    • Reply

    I have Ridden the trail and one day hope to ride it again with my son in a few years. Please leave it as a trail for all to get the chance to see the state in a different way then the freeway.
    Scott McBeath

    • Sean on October 10, 2015 at 9:12 pm
    • Reply

    I wonder the “interest” of joe schmick and Mary Dye of this area. Just doesn’t make sense why they would be burning calories over this area/matter unless they have some personal interest. So grateful of their typo that saved the trail. Now hopefully this can generate some funds to improve these areas.

  1. […] “Wording error” saved John Wayne Pioneer Trail from private takeover » […]

  2. […] Continue reading » […]

  3. […] State came one typo away from throwing away hope of ever completing the cross-state John Wayne Pioneer Trail and park (also […]

  4. […] They had intended to close the John Wayne Pioneer Trail from the Columbia River to the town of Malden and turn it over to adjacent landowners. The issue avoided public notice by being included as addendum to the Capital Budget. The state couldn’t act on the provision, however, because of a wording error that marked the closure “from the Columbia River to the Columbia River.” [See “Wording error saved John Wayne Pioneer Trail”] […]

  5. […] State came one typo away from throwing away hope of ever completing the cross-state John Wayne Pioneer Trail and park (also […]

  6. […] Fortunately, someone misworded the budget addendum and the state couldn’t act on the provision. [See: “Wording error saved John Wayne Pioneer Trail.“] […]

  7. […] By now, you probably know the story about how a state legislator’s scheme to close a portion of the 253-mile rail-trail and give the land to adjacent landowners was derailed by a simple typo (“Wording error saves John Wayne Pioneer Trail…). […]

  8. […] ploy, spoiled by a simple typo in a state budget item, galvanized trail advocates into action after a series of town hall meetings […]

  9. […] Schoesler is attempting to block funding for trail improvements in state budget proposals in Olympia, and Schmick tried to turn over the trail to adjacent landowners 2 years ago. That scheme fell victim to the “miraculous typo.”  […]

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