Gap in Centennial Trail won't be fixed soon —

Gap in Centennial Trail won't be fixed soon

Gale Fiege, Everett Herald, July 5, 2008
Gap in Centennial Trail won't be fixed soon

Mike Duby of Stanwood completes his ride on the Centennial Trail as he pulls back into the northernmost trailhead just south of Arlington on a recent Saturday. Photo by Jennifer Buchanan

The county hopes to receive a grant to fill in the 1.2-mile break in the Centennial Trail

ARLINGTON -- Mike Duby would like to ride his bicycle on the Centennial Trail from downtown Arlington to Snohomish.

But a 1.2-mile gap in the trail is preventing him and others from making the journey safely.

Duby, 51, of Stanwood, used to park his car next to Arlington City Hall, unload his road bike and ride along the trail within the city. Then, heading south on 67th Avenue NE, he hit a curvy gap in the trail between 172nd and 152nd streets NE.

"Many people have been hurt there. There's no shoulder or sidewalks. It has ditches, and cars are driving past at 50 miles an hour," Duby said. "So now I just don't even ride that stretch anymore."

It's too bad, he said, because he used to drop a few bucks in Arlington every time he rode the trail.

That concerns Arlington City Councilwoman Marilyn Oertle.

With cities promoting economic development and depending more and more on sales tax revenues to survive, amenities such as the Centennial Trail take on an even greater importance, she said.

"The Centennial Trail is such a great asset to the community," Oertle said.

Safety is the big issue, Oertle said, and she won't bike along the gap in the trail south of the city.

Earlier this year, the Arlington City Council passed a resolution urging Snohomish County to close the 20-block gap.

That won't happen anytime before 2010, said county spokesman Christopher Schwarzen.

The county parks department estimates it will cost about $1.8 million to build the trail from the current 152nd Street NE trailhead north to the Arlington city limits, Schwarzen said.

The county has applied for a matching grant from the state Recreation and Conservation Office for half the construction price, Schwarzen said. If the state picks the trail project and a grant is awarded in 2009, the county would pay for its half of the cost from its 2009 and 2010 budgets, he said.

"We recognize that it needs to be done and we want to finish it," Schwarzen said. "We're just hoping this state grant will be the answer."

What the county does have money for is an extension of the Centennial Trail that runs approximately alongside Highway 9 north from Arlington to the Skagit County line. Snohomish County plans to ask for bids this fall and perhaps try to begin construction before the weather gets too bad, Schwarzen said.

The county parks department estimates that the construction cost at that end of the trail could hit $8 million. The county has $6.5 million to spend on the extension, $2 million of that from a separate state grant, Schwarzen said.

To make up the shortfall, the county has hopes that the Centennial Trail Coalition of Snohomish County will help financially and with in-kind donations such as the planting of native shrubs.

Bea Randall, a master gardener and a longtime member of the nonprofit trail coalition, said she plans to help.

Previously called the Snohomish-Arlington Trail Coalition, the coalition of user groups works to promote development of the trail, along with its extensions and spurs, Randall said.

This includes work toward finishing the Whitehorse Trail from Arlington to Darrington and encouraging the county to investigate an extension of the trail south from Snohomish to the King County line.

The trail got its start in the late 1980s, when a six-mile segment was established north of Snohomish. It opened in 1989, the state's centennial year, and primarily follows an old railroad route from the 1800s. The link to the outskirts of Arlington opened in 2004. Arlington is now finishing a small stretch of the trail in the city between 204th Street NE and Lebanon Street.

"If the county keeps up its work on the Centennial Trail, it's going to be the crown jewel in the nation's trail system," Randall said.

That sounds like a dream to cyclist Duby.

"I would ride the entire distance," he said. "The trail is one of the greatest things about Snohomish County."

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