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State and federal agencies meet with city on pathway plan

 

Electric City Deputy Clerk Russell Powers leads a discussion last Wednesday on a proposed pathway through Electric City. He is aided by Gray and Osborne engineering representative Mike Meskimen, who is controlling a Google Earth presentation of the pathway on the screen. - Scott Hunter photo

Governmental agencies and some local people crowded into a meeting room at Coulee Medical Center Wednesday as agencies made presentations at the Electric City Pathway and Trail meeting.

Representatives from Bureau of Reclamation; the National Park Service's Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance; Washington State University Rural Communities Design Initiative; Grant County Health District; Washington State Department of Transportation; and Gray & Osborne, Electric City's engineering firm, gave briefings on their actual or possible involvement so far.

The presentations and discussions centered on phase one of a trail system in Electric City that would eventually extend from Sunbanks Lake Resort to North Dam Park and beyond.

Phase one of the project would be a trail for pedestrians and bicyclists between Coulee Playland and North Dam Park.

Paul Mahre, of the Washington State Department of Transportation, stated DOT was in favor of the trail concept but admitted that the phase one area presented some peculiar problems.

The issue here is safety of pedestrians and bicyclists, he stated, because the highway through this area is narrow and there isn't very much distance between the railings alongside the highway and the roadway.

It was pointed out that the trail needed to be at least 10 feet wide for some types of grant support.

Mahre stated that maybe the space problem could be solved by keeping a bike trail up at the highway level, but placing a pedestrian trail along the lake.

Tiffany Quilter, of the Grant County Health District, looked at the trail system from an entirely different angle. She took the health view.

Funded with a grant from the Centers for Disease Control to "help communities become more walkable," Quilter talked about the number of obese people in Grant County (32 percent) and locally, those with diabetes and heart ailments at rates higher than the state average. She saw the trail as a way that people could develop healthy walking habits.

She got support from Electric City Deputy Clerk Russell Powers, who explained to the audience that he and his wife had achieved a combined weight loss of about 300 pounds from developing a walking regimen. It wasn't difficult for him to see the value of a trail system.

Bureau of Reclamation spokesperson Bruce Loranger said that nothing could be done by the bureau on the trail until there was a concrete plan. His is just one of many agencies that would have to approve any trail plan.

"We will work with you in partnership, but we will need a plan," he said.

Mike Meskimen, of Gray & Osborne, noted that there could be several approaches to phase one of the pathway project. He said that his firm would have to wait until later in any effort to offer specifics. Gray & Osborne will do the final plan for the city's trail project.

The city council has already voted $40,000 from its hotel/motel reserve fund to pay for the WSU team's expenses and for a Gray & Osborne finished plan.

WSU's professor/student team will be in charge of conducting at least two community meetings to get input from local residents. Those meetings could begin by April and their report issued by August.

Alexandra Stone, of the National Parks System's Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance program, who flew in from Seattle for the meeting, told shareholders that she had been active in other trail programs. The NPS has also been mentioned as interested in developing a trail from Crescent Bay to Spring Canyon.

Shawta Sackett, also from Grant County Health District, discussed the need for a survey, and the discussion that followed nearly derailed the meeting.

Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Peggy Nevsimal told the audience that she knew of four surveys being planned for the area by other entities.

Powers, trying to keep the focus on the issue at hand, told the group that it was primarily an Electric City project, and while comments from others would be welcome, the group needed to keep its focus on that. Small groups then worked on localizing a survey Sackett presented.

Powers said Thursday that he planned to hold a public workshop on the survey this winter or early spring.

He said the actual survey could be conducted electronically with hard copies available for the public at Electric City's city hall.

The city has already agreed to put aside $400,000 of its hotel/motel tax money for use on the trail. Earlier this month, the five-member city council voted 4-1 to do that.

The meeting drew about 35 people.

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