County commissioners give approval for work on Freeland Trail

Work is expected to start next month on the next link in the bridge-to-boat trail that will one day, supporters hope, stretch from Deception Pass to the Clinton Ferry Terminal.

Island County commissioners have approved funding for a nearly one-mile section of the trail in Freeland, and the segment will run alongside the west side of Highway 525 from Bush Point Road to Main Street.

Design work for the 10-foot-wide, multi-use trail will start in March, and construction is currently slated for April 2013.

County officials said the trail segment — which will cost roughly $743,000, with the federal government paying $670,100 of the overall costs — will give people another way to get into Freeland without jumping into an automobile.

Commissioner Helen Price Johnson said the trail will connect a future park-and-ride lot that Island Transit has planned near the northern end of Freeland to the business core. Eventually, that project will cut 20 minutes off the bus ride between Freeland and the ferry dock, she said, as Island Transit has plans for an express bus from the new lot to the ferry terminal.

Plus, the new Freeland Trail brings the added benefit of creating a safe walkway that will provide for a healthier community.

“I think it will be used a lot,” Price Johnson said. “It’s just a win-win-win.”

Joantha Guthrie, the county’s project manager for the trail, said the Freeland section is the third link in the long-term, multi-use project called the Whidbey Isle Trail that is envisioned to run from one end of the island to the other.

The trail already has two completed segments near Coupeville, with one near the Kettles Trail area and the other, the Rhododendron Trail segment, that stretches south from Main Street to Jacobs Road near the Rhododendron Park Campground.

Guthrie said another Coupeville trail section will be done at approximately the same time as the Freeland link. The new segment in Coupeville will stretch the trail from Jacobs Road to the entrance of Rhododendron Park, and the county is wrapping up getting agreements for the right-of-way for the link.

The Freeland piece, however, is on land all owned by the state.

Guthrie said the Freeland link — as the other segments in Coupeville — are for non-motorized users; people on foot, bikes or horseback.

It will give residents a way to get into town from a new park-and-ride that’s planned by Island Transit for the corner of Bush Point Road.

“It ties in with that, but it also ties in with the people on Cameron Road, to be able to get them into town by walking,” she said, noting the trail ends near the signalized crosswalk at Fish Road and Highway 525.

“It’s building infrastructure for the future and it’s serving current needs and getting people into Freeland,” Guthrie said.

The paved trail will include a viewing platform on one end that will provide an overlook to Mutiny Bay. There will also be environmental and historical education panels on display.

Guthrie said the county doesn’t have a timeline for when it would like the entire trail completed, and said construction of additional segments is dependent on outside sources of funding.

“As the funds become available, then we’re going to pick sections that we can do within the funds available, but also make sense and are usable now,” Guthrie explained.

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