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Centennial Trail gets a spring cleaning

It’s the region’s ultimate pathway – 37 paved miles with long stretches of scenic landscape and stunning views of the nearby river.

Every year, more than 1.6 million people use the Spokane River Centennial Trail for gentle jogs, long walks, brisk bike rides and even Ironman training.

It’s a regional treasure, acknowledged Linda Walters, of Spokane Valley, one of hundreds who took part Saturday in Unveil the Trail, the annual spring cleanup of the Centennial Trail.

“So many people enjoy it,” said Walters, the community service chairwoman of the Spokane Valley Sunrise Rotary Club. “We wanted to do our part because this project benefits the whole community.”

Walters and others from the club, along with their spouses and children, picked up trash from the state line all the way to milepost one of the trail. They also applied fresh coats of paint to the milepost signs and bollards, the short brown posts that divert motor vehicles from the road.

“This is actually a lot of fun,” said 14-year-old Jordan Szablewski, who was part of the Rotary group. “It gets us out of the house, and it’s a good way to help the community.”

As she and her 11-year-old sister, Kalie, got down on their hands and knees to paint the posts along the trail, several cyclists slowed down, waved and thanked them for their hard work.

Despite the cloudy skies that threatened to dump rain all morning, hundreds of volunteers spent three hours weeding and collecting trash along the Washington state portion of the trail. Besides individuals and families, more than a dozen companies and service organizations asked their employees and members to help.

Their presence was especially evident at milepost one, where several groups converged including the Rotary club, Cub Scout Pack 439, the honor society at East Valley Middle School and students from Adams Elementary in Spokane Valley.

“We have to do our share of the cleanup,” said Tim Lee, of Spokane Valley, who showed up along with his three children and a niece. “Everyone has to have a sense of responsibility for the trail.”

Trail maintenance is done regularly by city, county and state crews, but volunteer assistance still is essential to the trail’s overall upkeep, according to Friends of the Centennial Trail, the non-profit that organizes the annual cleanup.

“We get a huge amount of community support,” said Kaye Turner, executive director of Friends of the Centennial Trail.

The Cub Scouts, along with their parents and siblings, came prepared with rubber gloves and rolls of trash bags. Before heading out to the trail, the boys fueled up on bottles of water and boxes of doughnuts. “It’s a fun way for us to get out and enjoy the outdoors,” said den leader David Reis. “We’re learning about the environment while doing community service and being good citizens.”

Volunteers picked up all sorts of trash in the grassy areas along the trail – beer bottles, Styrofoam cups, Kleenex and paper of all kinds. Patrick Peck, of Spokane Valley and his 6-year-old son, David, picked up an old flip flop that was partially disintegrated. Some of the girls from East Valley Middle School’s honor society found a large, rusty hubcap.

Most of the trash from mileposts one to two appeared to be freeway debris, according to Shannon Stookey, a science and math teacher at East Valley Middle School and the honor society adviser.

Even though they had collected several bags full of garbage, this year’s load seemed less than previous years, said Stookey, who has been involved in Unveil the Trail since 2002.

Once taken for granted by some, the trail is now appreciated by more people than ever, said Jon Rascoff, board chairman of Friends of the Centennial Trail.

When newcomers move to the area, many say that Spokane’s biggest attractions include all the outdoor opportunities and the Centennial Trail, said Rascoff, who helped supervise Saturday’s cleanup by riding his bicycle back and forth from the Idaho state line to milepost two. “People just love the trail,” he said.

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