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Whidbey's Rhododendron Trail extension is funded

The Island County commissioners recently green-lighted a plan to extend Rhododendron Trail on Central Whidbey.

The board gave the $237,500 project an informal nod at a May work session. A construction contract is pending and must also be approved, but project leaders hope to finishing up before the end of the year.

“Looks like we’ll get this built this season,” said Bill Oakes, director of Island County Public Works.

The extension is part of the long-range and ongoing Whidbey Isle Trail, or bridge-to-boat project, which seeks to construct a paved path from Deception Pass to the Clinton ferry terminal.

Approved in 2006, the plan has no timeline. It’s to be built in segments and as funding becomes available.

The two sections completed so far include Kettles and Rhododendron trails. Kettles snakes along Highway 20 from the southern-most entrance of Fort Ebey State Park to the intersection at South Main Street in Coupeville, and Rhododendron stretches from the same intersection south to Jacobs Road.

The proposed quarter-mile extension would continue at Jacobs to the entrance of the Rhododendron Park campground, according to Joantha Guthrie, project leader with Public Works.

“The idea is, once we get to the entrance, to have something go through the park,” she said.

Emerging at the ball fields on the southern side of the park — home base for Central Whidbey Little League — the trail segment would provide a safe path for those traveling from Coupeville.

The 10-foot-wide, paved paths are multimodal, which means they can be used by pedestrians and bicyclists. Motorized vehicles are not permitted.

Public Works is also working on a trail segment in Freeland. It was slated to begin in April but the discovery of wetlands required additional work and pushed back construction.

Guthrie said the Rhododendron segment still needs to go out to bid and a construction contract will need to be approved by the board before work can begin.

The hope is to break ground by late summer or early fall, she said.

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