Heron trail future still being discussed
By Brad W. Gary, for the Columbia Basin Herald
August 23, 2006
Council supportive, but calls for study session
MOSES LAKE -- Discussions are not complete about the future of the Heron Trail.
The Moses Lake city council voiced support for the future of the trail, which has been hailed as a signature piece of the community trails system Tuesday night, but told trails supporters they would like to discuss the matter further.
A study session between members of the Healthy Communities Trails Planning Team and the city of Moses Lake has not yet been scheduled, but the meeting is expected within the next few weeks.
The project, which was initially marketed as a connection from McCosh Park to the Japanese Peace Garden, has been pared down in recent months after rising prices also led to a skyrocketing price tag. The project which was originally estimated at approximately $500,000 has risen to as high as $1.2 million.
Heron Trail plans accelerated after the project was awarded a $342,000 grant by the Interagency Committee for Outdoor Recreation last May. The city has previously committed $110,000 to the project, but must decide whether to increase the city's participation to aid in paying for the project.
Municipal services director Gary Harer said the IAC could grant project changes, but said the City Council must approve funding options before a formal request can be made.
Neither of two options would now have a connection to the Japanese Peace Garden, trails through McCosh Park, viewing platforms or decorative basalt as originally envisioned in the trail plan.
"At a later date we can still construct the pathway to McCosh and the construction to the Japanese garden," Harer told council members.
Several legs have been cut out of the project, and Harer told the council Tuesday that there is nothing left to cut out without jeopardizing grant funds.
The current proposal includes a shorter boardwalk without viewing platforms. The boardwalk has been reduced from 1,600 feet long to 1,300 feet long.
An option utilizing a steel structure and concrete decking would cost a total of approximately $1.2 million with the city contributing $874,000. A second option would substitute in a wood structure with Trex decking and would cost $877,000, with $535,000 coming from the city.
Council members initially made a motion supporting the steel structure, before seeking out a study session on the project.
"I'd hate to say us go halfway and deal with a boardwalk with wood," Councilman Brent Reese said in motioning for the $1.2 million option. "It seems to me if we're going to do it right we can do it in concrete."
Councilman Jon Lane said he liked the project, but was concerned about the cost to build the activity trail.
City Manager Joe Gavinski told council members the city would likely have to pay for the improvements through the city's general fund or by borrowing internally.
"Borrowing externally is not a possibility," Gavinski said in response to questions from council members. "Borrowing internally is probably the only option you have."
The majority of the project's expenses would be paid in 2007, Gavinski said.
Heron Trail supporters swelled the council chambers, encouraging the city to continue with the project.
Trails Planning Team co-chair Joe Rogers told the council they would not only lose the unique boardwalk, but also the money already invested, if the project was not completed.
Rogers relayed a story about the support for trails at a recent neighborhood meeting in saying the TPT is convinced about the need for trails.
"A trails system that links parts of Moses Lake together would be part of our infrastructure," Vision 2020 Chair Alan Heroux later said.
The link is one of the main reasons the project was initially accepted by IAC, TPT co-chair Bob Russell told the council.
Mayor Ron Covey mentioned the possibility of the city also needing funding to acquire part of the downtown rail line for a future activity trail. The cost to acquire the portion of railroad right of way which could become available within the year is estimated to cost $4.38 million.
Covey was the first to suggest the project be done in phases, which could mean giving up the trail's grant funding. He said the city projects need to be done right the first time or not done at all, including the Heron Trail.
"I would like to see it be a real signature piece for Moses Lake," Covey said. "It might be better to forgo the IAC grant money, do the project across the water in phases, let the city pay for it right, rather than doing something less than."
Russell said he came away from the meeting with a positive feeling the council wants to complete the project. He just wants to see the project move forward, noting everything takes time when trails need to be built.
"I think we're going to have something done there eventually," Russell said. "I'm optimistic, you bet."