John Wayne Pioneer Trail supporters head to Olympia; seek more trail funding and end to permits

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Supporters of the John Wayne Pioneer Trail should probably thank the two state legislators who mounted a muddled attempt last year to give away one-third of the 253-mile-long rail-trail in eastern Washington to adjacent landowners.

John Wayne Pioneer Trail at

John Wayne Pioneer Trail at

The ploy, spoiled by a simple typo in a state budget item, galvanized trail advocates into action after a series of town hall meetings last fall proved there was widespread support for an open and improved trail.

Trail saved

Now, after State Rep. Joe Schmick says he’s abandoned efforts to close the trail, a delegation from eastern Washington is traveling to Olympia this week to lobby state legislators.

They’re seeking an end to use permits for access to long sections of trail east of the Columbia River and funding to improve riding conditions on the trail — the longest rail-trail in the US.

UntitledThe result would be a largely off-road bicycle route from the Seattle suburbs to the Idaho border that would lure bicycling travelers and help boost small-town economies along the corridor.

Ted Blaszak, head of the Tekoa Trail & Trestle Association and a city councilman in the town near the Idaho border, says the trail supporters will attend Association of Washington Cities events on Wednesday and the Great Outdoors Legislative Day on Thursday. At 9 a.m. Friday they’ll hold a press conference on the north steps of the Capitol Building.

Letter to legislators

In a letter to some eastern Washington legislators, Blaszak wrote that they’d be happy to meet with them while in Olympia.

“We are pretty sure you have a good idea of our policy goals; remove the special permit requirements for the John Wayne Pioneer Trail, fix the Tekoa Trestle, and increase funding for trail repair in order to help our small farm town economies.”

The letter also asks if there would be any legislative action regarding the trail in 2016.

It’s wonderful news that trail advocates are going to the state capital to lobby on behalf of the John Wayne Pioneer Trail. There have been other positive developments as well.

In the past few months, 14 eastern Washington cities and towns have issued proclamations supporting more funding for the trail. They were Tekoa, Spokane, Cheney, Rosalia, Lind, Palouse, Colfax, Pullman, Cle Elum, Royal City, Rockford, Latah, Ellensburg and Roslyn.

John Wayne Pioneer Trail website

John Wayne Pioneer Trail website

Further, the efforts to save the trail have caught the attention of the D.C.-based nonprofit Rails to Trails Conservancy which recently published an article: “Update from the West: The John Wayne Trail is safe – for Now.”

This is a big endeavor, and Blazsak is actively recruiting people to help. His group needs supporters to contact their legislators and senators about the need for trail improvements. (Example of letter to legislator.)

Plenty of up-to-date information and discussion is available at the Facebook page for the Tekoa Trail & Trestle Association . The Friends of the John Wayne Pioneer Trail website spells out the issues as well.

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