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Trail proposals mapped out at regional gathering

SNOHOMISH — A trail planning meeting Thursday brought together numerous municipalities to consider the future of regional trails and figure out how to fund them.
Civic leaders from Monroe, Granite Falls and Darrington met up with select Snohomish County staff and members of the Trail Coalition of Snohomish County at a public stakeholder meeting to discuss planned trail connections, priorities, politics and revenue.
Maps of the county at the meeting showed both existing trails, planned trail updates and a number of new trails and connections being planned.
Attendees could also see who trail customers were from the maps, which showed whether they were used by hikers, bikers or equestrians.
Discussion settled mainly on how to bring the plans to reality and the complexity involved.
Because regional trail plans have to align with the trail plans of county cities, Snohomish County Senior Parks Planner Tom Eksten will have his work cut out for him.
“We’ve asked Tom to meet with the staff and public from several cities on how to put everybody’s input together. We need to get everyone at the table and gage interest in a trail bond. It used to cost a million dollars a mile of (paved) trail, now it’s two million,” said Russ Bosanko, a Snohomish County Parks and Recreation division manager.
Bosanko estimated the costs to complete several future plans at around $40 to $50 million.
Revenues from user fees, bike registrations and builder mitigation fees would fall far short of paying for the projects: Bosanko said they were only “drops in the bucket.”
“Our trails are people’s number one favorite, but the least return revenue-wise per person,” Bosanko said.
Snohomish County councilman Sam Low attended the meeting and advised researching federal funds and ways to piggyback them.
“Money received from grants can be used to get more money. Makefriends with state legislators,” Low said.
Coalition member Peg Firm added that finding evidence tying trail planning with economic development would support that strategy.
Funding wasn’t the only major challenge for Monroe city administrator Deborah Knight.
“It’s hard to understand what the priorities are for the county,” said Knight. “When a trail (plan) is on the list for a long time, there’s an expectation that that trail is next in line, but even if a measure passes, there are delays and then costs go up, so what happens?”
Eksten, formerly King County’s regional trails coordinator, has 30 years of experience behind him but he is hampered by the fact that Snohomish County has not yet approved even a six-year proposed trail plan. Without an approved plan, prime opportunities have been missed, such as a planned connection between McCollum Park and the Centennial Trail. Because a developer made plans with the County to build on the east side of Third Avenue, the planned trail connection will now have to be placed on the west side of Third Avenue. That could have been prevented had the County had an approved trail plan for reference.
Still, Eksten had recently solidified a trail route from Snohomish to Everett.
“It’s not acquired yet, but at least we have some agreement between cities,” he said.
The next coalition meeting will be September 20 at 5:30 p.m. at Christ the King Community Church, 21108 67th Ave. NE in Arlington.
For more information on these public outreach meetings call principal planner Sharon Swan at 425-388-6616 or Tom Eksten at 425-388-6606.

  

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