Commissioners consider Clinton-to-Ken’s Korner paved trail once again

In 2018, county returned grant funding for project

South Whidbey might be getting another shot at a trail between the Clinton ferry terminal and Ken’s Korner.

Island County commissioners Wednesday approved moving forward with preliminary engineering research on a long-planned, separated trail from Clinton to Langley Road. Public Works will use an $860,000 state Department of Transportation grant to complete this phase of the project.

There isn’t a design finalized yet, but the proposal in the county non-motorized trail plan calls for a 10-foot wide, paved separated trail on the northeast side of State Highway 525. The estimated construction cost is $4.1 million.

Commissioners Helen Price Johnson and Jill Johnson expressed interest in looking into less expensive ways to complete the trail, such as using existing shoulders.

“I’m not convinced that’s the only path forward, so to speak,” Price Johnson said of the paved trail.

Clinton-to-Ken’s Korner route has been planned for years and had federal funding for its construction at one point. In 2018, former commissioner Rick Hannold and Johnson directed county Public Works Director Bill Oakes to decline the money and pursue other projects. This action didn’t remove the trail from the overall plan but moved back its expected completion.

At the time, the two commissioners said that it was too much of an investment for potentially not many users.

Johnson also wanted to see more clearly how the trail would fit into the county’s “bridge-to-boat” vision, in which public works hopes to have a system of trails that go from Deception Pass Bridge to the Clinton ferry.

At the recent meeting, Johnson said she still wasn’t sure about the potential return on investment of the trail, but she supported using the grant funds for the preliminary research.

“I think that there needs to be some real acknowledgement about the fact that these trails that everybody likes are not inexpensive to create,” she said Wednesday.

The public works department intends to apply for a Transportation Alternatives Grant and Surface Transportation Block Grant for construction.

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