Commission votes Thursday on new name for John Wayne Pioneer Trail

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Happy trails, Duke.

It looks like the state of Washington Parks Commission is about to give a new identity to the John Wayne Pioneer Trail.

Rock-climbing on John Wayne Pioneer Trail

The staff for the state Parks and Recreation Commission has been searching for a new name for the semi cross-state trail for months.

It sought suggestions from the public and came up with a short list in April.

The staff is recommending commission members on Thursday vote for “Palouse to Cascades State Park Trail” as the new name. They says it reflects the geographical location of the rail-trail that crosses the Cascades and ends in the Palouse at the Idaho border.

Some other choices considered:

Cascalouse State Park Trail (a contraction of the Cascade and Palouse geographic areas)
Columbian State Park Trail (a named passenger train that operated on the trail)
Cross Washington State Park Trail (descriptive trail name)
Iron Horse State Park Trail (current name of this State Park trail acknowledging the trail as a former railway)
Milwaukee Road State Park Trail (name of the railroad that operated on the trail)
Trail of the Olympian State Park Trail (name used to describe the route from Chicago to the Puget Sound)

Commission members are scheduled to vote on the new name at a meeting in Spokane on Thursday. Here’s the meeting agenda.

Old railroad cut on John Wayne Pioneer Trail east of Ellensburg

The John Wayne Pioneer Trail name dates back to the early 1980s, when the state took over the railroad corridor from the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad, aka Milwaukee Road. One of the most active supporters was a fan of John Wayne and also headed the John Wayne Pioneer Wagons and Riders Association, which travels the trail every year. (The latest trek starts on May 17.)

Subsequently, the western 110 miles from about Rattlesnake Lake to the Columbia River became the Iron Horse State Trail Park, which contained the John Wayne Pioneer Trail. This has caused confusion over the years, which is one reason the commission opted for a new name for the trail and park.

Today, the trail is one of the longest rail-trails in the nation, although not all of the 285-mile former railroad corridor is in public ownership.

The state parks owns the 110 miles from Rattlesnake Lake to the Columbia River near Vantage, as well as a 105-mile stretch from Lind to the Idaho border.

John Wayne Pioneer Trail closure. — Traillink base map

Another stretch between Beverly (on the Columbia River) and Lind is controlled by the Department of Natural Resources. However, the DNR closed indefinitely this unimproved section because there’s no money for maintenance. [This section was reopened on May 1, according to Friends of the John Wayne Pioneer Trail.]Other sections of trail in eastern Washington are inaccessible because of missing trestles, landslides, and private property ownership.

The state parks department is currently working with DNR to transfer ownership of the Beverly-Lind section to the parks department.




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  1. A correction:
    Sections of the JWPT managed by DNR, and not currently active railway, are open for public access as of May 1, 2018. See our website and Facebook page for more information.

    1. Thanks for the update and the correction, Robert!

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