Managers of a Spokane cemetery, fearful that in-line skaters and bicyclists could disrupt funerals, rejected a proposal to run the Centennial Trail across the edge of Riverside Memorial Park.
Trail organizers on Wednesday called the decision by the Fairmont Memorial Association a major blow to efforts aimed at filling in a gap in the popular pathway.
“They have potentially killed the route that would take the trail from Riverfront Park to the T.J. Meenach Bridge,” said Dean Moorehouse, president of Friends of the Centennial Trail.
The trail currently does not have its own right of way between the park and the bridge, but follows a bike route posted on city streets.
That’s a safety hazard, Moorehouse said. “The real goal, wherever possible, is to separate the trail from traffic,” he said.
An engineering firm hired by Moorehouse’s group found that the route across Riverside Memorial was the most feasible way to get the trail from the park to the bridge.
That plan calls for the trail to extend west from Riverfront Park along the north bank of the Spokane River and cross the river on a new wooden bridge to Riverside Memorial.
From there, it would continue along the riverbank until it hooked up with an already built segment near T.J. Meenach Bridge.
Other routes were too expensive and hazardous to the environment, Taylor Engineering concluded in its 1995 study.
Trail organizers said the cemetery association’s rejection also jeopardizes $460,000 in federal money that would pay for the wooden bridge.
The U.S. Forest Service said it would withdraw the money if the gap in the trail wasn’t filled in soon, Moorehouse said.
The 23 members of the cemetery association’s board of directors voted unanimously last month to deny the request for an easement across a portion of Riverside Memorial.
The association manages that cemetery and three others in Spokane.
Board members decided the trail - popular with joggers, bicyclers and in-line skaters - could disrupt services or upset mourners at the 107-year-old cemetery, said Duane Broyles, Fairmont Memorial Association general manager.
“We spent a lot of time and anguish over this because we’re a part of this community, too,” Broyles said. “But the sanctity and serenity of the cemetery is first and foremost always. We must look out for our plot-holders.”
Friends of Centennial Trail offered to build a fence separating the trail from the rest of the cemetery, according to a proposal sent to the cemetery association last November.
The group also proposed installing gates so the trail could be blocked off during services at the cemetery, according to the proposal.
Broyles said the cemetery board didn’t think those measures would be enough.
Moorehouse said he hopes city and county officials will get involved and try to convince cemetery board members to change their minds.
“If we lose this chance, it will probably be a long time before we get another opportunity,” he said. “This is a golden opportunity to complete this gap.”
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Map: Cemetery denies Centennial Trail easement