Op-Ed: Nonmotorized vision goes beyond trail
By the Kitsap County Board of Commissioners: Charlotte Garrido, Robert Gelder, Ed Wolfe
We are responding to the Kitsap Sun article "Countywide trail going nowhere" (Nov. 28) and the Sun editorial board's Our View column on the same topic ("Can't ignore the outcry over trails," Dec. 6), which provided a limited viewpoint on Kitsap's nonmotorized planning efforts.
The Board of County Commissioners adopted the Kitsap County Non-Motorized Facility Plan in December 2013. Nonmotorized facilities include road shoulders, bike lanes, soft-surface and paved trails, separated pathways, sidewalks and water trails to serve a variety of users (walkers, runners, bicyclists, kayakers, those with assistive devices such as wheelchairs) with many purposes (recreational, commuting, safe routes to schools).
The regional trail referred to in the article is one part of a much larger vision. The plan identifies a substantial number of nonmotorized needs in Kitsap County and puts forth 12 specific goals in a 20-year planning horizon. These include establishing trail routes that highlight the natural beauty of our region and promoting them to entice tourism and economic development; encouraging preservation of open space and access to it; providing safe routes to schools and other safety improvements; and creating a network of water trails for public access.
The nine citizens we appointed to the Non-Motorized Facilities Citizens Advisory Committee are tasked with helping create a series of strategies for future funding considerations including the prioritizing of proposed regional and local route segments. The committee meeting agendas and minutes, and the nonmotorized facility plan, are posted at www.kitsapgov.com/pw/nonmotor.htm.
We thought extensively about how the Citizens Advisory Committee would help Kitsap County work through the multitude of specialized interests reflected in the vision of the nonmotorized plan. If we didn't support a nonmotorized trail plan, we wouldn't have approved it nor created a citizens advisory group. Commissioners remain hopeful the committee will help the county identify priorities and feasible and fundable implementation strategies we will use to determine the best returns on investment for taxpayer money.
Kitsap County staff dedicated a tremendous amount of time working with the committee in the last 10 months to get established, set priorities and provide resources. When the Public Works planner staffing the committee abruptly left to take a job on the east side of Puget Sound, Public Works Director Andrew Nelson continued support of the committee, assigning both the County Engineer and Senior Traffic Engineer to staff committee meetings. The county recently introduced a newly hired transportation planner who will be the primary point of contact for the committee.
Funding projects on the Kitsap County Transportation Improvement Program's (TIP) prioritized project list distinguishes between the types of funding available to unincorporated areas. County road funds must be used for county road purposes and require that nonmotorized projects have a transportation connection. Unfortunately, Kitsap County is not eligible for all federal grants distributed through the Puget Sound Regional Council, many of which are designated for large cities where air quality is a problem. Based on the current allocation of capital funds from our share of gas and property taxes, roughly $500,000 is available locally for nonmotorized work. The county has far exceeded that in expenditures. As we do with all projects, all available sources of federal and state funding are pursued. We've been very successful in securing these funds.
Recent funding to Jefferson County was in large part from local and state funds, through the Washington Wildlife & Recreation Program (WWRP) and Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office (RCO). Kitsap County uses funding from those programs to support land conservation, local trails and county parks improvements that volunteer stewardship groups help identify. We have over 7,000 acres of parkland and well over 1,200 volunteers who contribute upwards of 50,000 hours annually. Kitsap's hilly terrain lined with wetlands presents expensive challenges to trail planning, unlike Clallam County's regional trails constructed on abandoned right of way and railway lines that are graded and easy to pave. We must balance funding decisions for nonmotorized planning with safety improvements, the preservation and maintenance of existing facilities, capacity and environmental considerations.
Seven of the top 10 projects on the adopted 2015-2020 TIP are related to nonmotorized improvements. They include paved, widened shoulders on Hansville Road, Seabeck Highway, Glenwood Road, Sidney Road, Silverdale Way, Alaska Avenue and Suquamish Way, just to name a few of the 26 (of 65) TIP projects that have bike and pedestrian elements. Projects on the TIP are vetted to community groups and reflect significant public feedback that supports putting a majority of funding toward safety improvements while meeting multiple objectives. Here are some other examples being implemented, reflecting goals of the Non-Motorized Facility Plan:
— Received an RCO grant of more than $720,000 for the acquisition of trail easements through Pope Resources' Port Gamble property for the regional Sound-to-Olympics Trail, and an additional $500,000 to acquire land for a mountain bike ride park in the area.
— The National Park Service of the U.S. Department of Interior in 2013 designated the Kitsap Peninsula National Recreational Water Trail, the first national saltwater trail and the first water trail on the West Coast. Kitsap County staff played a large part in this and the county continues to provide support. The trail connects our waterways to the larger Cascadia Marine Trail.
— Sidewalk installations and other improvements are planned for Manchester, the McWilliams/Old Military and Phillips/Mullinex intersections, Central Valley and Fairground roads, Suquamish Way and Bayshore Drive.
— A Complete Streets and State Route 104 corridor study in Kingston will identify and create an implementation plan to improve multimodal use and connectivity from the ferry terminal through town to other local trail networks.
— A feasibility study is underway for a 1.5-mile paved extension of the Mosquito Fleet Trail through North Kitsap Heritage Park, an important segment of a longer cross-connector trail.
We encourage the public to review the list of projects on the 2016-2020 TIP and learn more about the evaluation process at www.kitsapgov.com/pw/sixyear_tip.htm.