Freeland seniors seek a safer walking trail

Breaking trail, Bob Aldrich, Elayne Woods and Vi Burkhardt walk in the area they hope will become a public path connecting Freeland
Breaking trail, Bob Aldrich, Elayne Woods and Vi Burkhardt walk in the area they hope will become a public path connecting Freeland's senior housing development with the area's library and medical offices.
— image credit: Gayle Saran

Elayne Woods wants seniors in Freeland to take a walk.

To help them along the way, Woods -- owner of Whidbey Walks and a member of the Island County Trail Council -- has applied for a $25,000 grant to fund a walking path between the senior housing development and the Freeland Library.

Offered by the Robert Wood Johnson Health Foundation, the grant targets community projects that increase physical activity among people age 50 and older.

Woods, with grant writer Nancy Bartlett, Freeland, believe the grant has Freeland's name on it. The pair recently formed a coalition with Friends of Freeland and a number of local businesses and individuals to work at making Freeland more pedestrian-friendly. The grant application is the first step.

A proposed trail route would take walkers from a back street in Maple Ridge, Freeland's new senior housing neighborhood on Newman Road, around the base of a nearby hill to the Freeland Library. The trail would keep walkers well away from traffic.

Woods said the exact route has not yet been determined because easements purchased from property owners might be necessary. However, she estimated that the trail would be about 200 yards long.

The trail is needed, she said, to get seniors out walking safely.

"Our proposal addresses the barrier local seniors encounter when they attempt to combine the physical activity of outdoor walking with the chores of daily life," she said. "Freeland does not offer safe pedestrian areas."

If awarded, the grant will be administered by Friends of Freeland.

Senior housing resident Bob Aldrich said he is delighted with the idea.

"I would like to walk my dog in a safe location," he said. "Traffic on Main Street is too fast."

Aldrich said that most residents in Maple Ridge support the idea for the path.

Senior housing developer Erl Bangston agrees something needs to be done about providing safer pedestrian areas in Freeland. He said he hopes to install a crosswalk from Maple Ridge to a sidewalk across the street that runs in front of a new bakery now that is still under construction.

"I am trying to get the county to the table to talk about this," he said this week. "Whenever they tell me what I can do it, I will do it."

The trail group expects to be notified by early April whether the grant is approved.

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