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Q&A with Centennial Trail chief Kaye Turner

Sun., July 5, 2009, 4:35 p.m.

Two decades after the ground was broken on Spokane’s most popular bike and pedestrian pathway, several stretches of the 37-mile Centennial Trail remain incomplete. The largest gap, between Riverfront Park and Riverside State Park, forces users onto city streets, and safety concerns also exist where it crosses Mission Avenue near Perry Street and at Argonne Road. Kaye Turner, the executive director of the Friends of the Centennial Trail, shares her thoughts on the trail’s future.

Q: Are you surprised that 20 years later, it’s not complete?

A: Absolutely. There’s a lot of private property issues that have created the stalling of the completion of the Centennial Trail. As we move forward, some of those dynamics change. As such, we take a look at different routing and how we can make it a more continuous pathway for the recreational people, the commuters – all types of users who use the trail.

Q: What is the biggest priority now?

A: Finishing the gaps … The one priority we’re looking at today that we think is most doable in the short term is continuing the trail from underneath the Monroe Street Bridge up to the Kendall Yards property and perhaps temporarily connecting it to city streets (such as Ide) to get the connection to Riverside State Park … Since the project (the proposed residential and commercial development Kendall Yards) at this time is stalled, the importance of getting our users from point A, downtown Spokane, to point B, Riverside State Park, needs to be addressed now versus later because we don’t know what’s going to happen with Kendall Yards at this point.

Q: Will it be possible to stick with plans to use the Sandifur Memorial Bridge across the river at Latah Creek to connect to Riverside State Park via the south and west sides of the Spokane River?

A: We’ve looked at that extensively … so have the governmental agencies. Because of private property issues, it hasn’t been feasible. The Sandifer Memorial Bridge was in the original master plan 20 years ago. When it was built there was still hope that perhaps we could move it on that side of the river, the south bank. At this point in time we’re looking at alternate routes. …Especially with Kendall Yards coming in at that point in time, promising to build the trial, it seemed like the logical way to go, and just continue on since we couldn’t get around the cemeteries and so forth. All options are being looked at, but right now we had a conceptual plan done where it would seem that the north bank is more feasible. That doesn’t mean that the Sandifer Memorial Bridge isn’t useful because it will take you to the Cheney Fish Lake Trail. It connects neighborhoods. It connects the popular loop downtown. The reason that I’m focusing on this Monroe Street piece is because it is so much smaller of a project but yet has such a huge impact on moving people from one corridor to another.

Q: What’s the problem at Mission near Perrynear the Avista headquarters?

A: As you leave Mission Park, the trail goes across the street at a cross light, across railroad tracks, in front of Avista and then picks up at Upriver Driver. That’s a huge safety issue … The thought has become to put a tunnel under the road so that it not only connects the Centennial Trial to Mission Park, but by facilitating another tunnel under the railroad track, it would connect both parts of the park – Witter Pool and Mission Park.

Q: How much would that cost?

A: That we have some old estimates on. Looking at the Mission Avenue underpass and connecting trail, you’re looking at $931,000.

Q: Do you think civic and government leaders have made the trail as much as of a priority as it should be?

A: No. But I have to preface that… City and government leaders have their plates full with a lot of … different parks they need to maintain, and in this economic climate it’s very difficult to choose what the priority is. However, that’s why we as an organization are here to work with those civic and government leaders to say, ‘Look, you need to look at this priority.’ What other city has a 37-mile trail along the river and it’s sitting incomplete after 20 years? Let’s put our moneys into that. We’re talking about fuel efficiency. It’s not just a recreational trail, it’s a commuter trail, and I think they need to be aware of that. I think that a lot of civic and government leaders see it more as just families going out and having fun, and granted, that’s a big piece of it. However, it’s also used heavily for commuting from place to place. They need to have their mindset realizing what a jewel it is and that we need to complete what we started instead of perhaps expanding what we don’t have.

Q: If someone was interested in helping this move along, what could they do?

A: They could contact me at the office at (509) 624-7188. Also, on our Web site we have a Trail Builders Fund. … Right now, we’re looking for funding for these projects. Money always seems to be an issue. Whatever expertise they have if they want to lend, I’d be happy to talk to them also.

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