As the economy improves, and with approval by the Island County Commissioners of up to $837,000 in federal funding for a non-motorized trail in Freeland, it’s time to move forward in earnest on a proposed trail from Deception Pass Bridge to the Clinton ferry.
The seed for such a project dates back to at least 2006. Though it hasn’t always seen wide support from the county commissioners — an approximately $1 million portion of the trail project between Coles and Mutiny Bay roads was scrubbed in 2014 due to cost and engineering concerns — the board has supported other parts of the project such as the recent green light of the section in Freeland.
We think this is a good move and encourage the commissioners to continue their support of an island-wide, non-motorized trail. In fact, we hope they make it a priority.
Such trails should be approached with financial care, but they should be pursued none-the-less. Thurston County’s 14.5-mile Yelm-Rainier-Tenino trail not only spans those communities, but also connects them to a 22-mile trail to Olympia, Lacey and Tumwater. Mileage markers along the way serve as incentives for those using the trails for exercise — and there are many who use them.
Rain or shine, the Thurston County trails are populated by runners, walkers, bicyclists, rollerbladers and nature enthusiasts.
Of course, such a venture cannot be built — or even funded — overnight. Thurston County is not wealthy. It took years to complete the Yelm-Tenino trail project. But it is now a well-used link to the various communities.
In a demonstration of foresight, the Island County commissioners should start setting aside money and work on obtaining state and federal grants to fund sections of a bridge-to-ferry trail.
In addition to the newly funded Freeland trail, there’s a trail that runs along a portion of Central Whidbey, including through Coupeville — it’s part of the same large plan to connect Clinton with Deception Pass.
Getting residents on the north end of Whidbey to see the value in having a trail from the bridge to Coupeville doesn’t seem like such a stretch.
Having a trail spanning Whidbey promises to improve the quality of life for every resident of the island.