Cushman Trail to receive $1.1 million funding boost
The Cushman-Pierson Trails Connector project that Peninsula Metropolitan Parks District Executive Director Terry Lee first began to push for in 2004 is halfway to its funding goal, thanks to an inexpensive construction climate.
The Washington Wildlife Recreation Program had bids come in lower than expected this year, and it opened up funding for projects that did not make the cut originally. Projects that were next in line, such as the Cushman Trail connector, were awarded funding last Friday.
PenMet Parks will receive $1.1 million to construct the project, which will create a steep trail underneath the Narrows Bridge and connect trail-goers in Tacoma to Reid Road.
“I’m thrilled that this has been formally recognized as a WWRP appropriation,” said Lee, who began working on the project as a Pierce County council member in 2004.
The funding will come in the form of a matching grant, and the project budget is just more than $2 million, he said.
The beauty of the project is its location, said former state Rep. Pat Lantz, who led an effort to get funding for the project when plans for the New Narrows Bridge were being made. When Lantz received news of the funding over the weekend, she emailed her colleagues at the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission.
“You have no idea what a fabulous project this is and how long in the making it has been,” Lantz wrote. “It means that Washington (and Tacoma, and the Gig Harbor Peninsula) can take advantage of one of the world’s most spectacular views in its tourist promotion, and in giving its citizens another quality-of-life experience that comes from our living in the shadow of Mount Rainier, with the rising sun and moon behind it, having a view of the full range of the Olympics silhouetted by sunset, and along the shores of Puget Sound that includes the unique deep water chasm of the Narrows.”
Bicycle commuters also stand to benefit, and they have increased more than 75 percent in the past 10 years in Washington State, according to the WWRP.
State Sen. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, who also has pushed for funding, said he’s glad the state could be a partner for the project.
“This is an important commitment to recreation for Gig Harbor and the entire region and will be a valuable long-term investment for our community,” said Kilmer, who assumed the role as vice chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee this year.
With Gig Harbor’s Cushman Trail spanning five miles and the Scott Pierson Trail the same, the connector will create a 10-mile trail system. The long-term goal is to continue that trail to Orting, Lee said.
“You’ll be able bike or run or whatever on each section,” Lee said.
Lee added that it will make biking to and from the New Narrows Bridge safer, since cyclists will be able to use the trail underneath the bridge, rather than the overpass, to traverse the highway. Currently, cyclists have to cross in front of the entrance to the bridge.
Lee plans to meet with designers this week and hopes to begin construction in 2013. Pierce County and the state will need to be involved in the process, he said.
“I am also currently asking the Pierce County Council to change the underlying zone from R-10 to Park and Recreation, which will help us expedite permitting as well as more closely define the expected uses of the properties,” Lee told Lantz in an email.
Lee expects the remainder of the funding to come from other grants.