Commission weighs easing river protection to improve trail
Three Centennial Trail proposals received
Spokane County planning commissioners received three new proposals last week for legalizing Centennial Trail improvements.
Commissioners took testimony Thursday and agreed to extend the time for public comments through their next meeting, on Feb. 17.
The new options would add conditions to a previous proposal to restore the ability to build 14-foot-wide public trails within 50 feet of the Spokane River, the Little Spokane River and Hangman Creek.
Currently, the county Critical Areas Ordinance relegates public trails to the outer one-fourth of a 250-foot buffer – 187 1/2 feet from the high-water mark. Much of the Centennial Trail is 50 feet or less from the shoreline.
The trail was built before the Critical Areas Ordinance was adopted.
All of the new proposals for amending the ordinance would allow public trails closer to streams under limited circumstances. Otherwise, they would require trails to be as far as possible from the water.
Planning Director John Pederson said the alternate proposals reflect the advice of the state Department of Ecology and other agencies.
They would allow public trails in shoreline buffers only for connections with “an existing regional multi-use non-motorized trail” and then only with habitat management plans.
Trails would be limited to 10 feet in width except for “regional trails,” such as the Centennial Trail or the Fish Lake Trail, which could be 14 feet wide.
Variations in the three new proposals focus on the extent to which new water-permeable pavement would be encouraged, and on the permissibility of gravel shoulders.
Pederson said the Department of Ecology supports an option that says permeable pavement “should be used once proven and competitively priced options are available for our climate.”
Kaye Turner, executive director of Friends of the Centennial Trail, said the organization supports requiring habit management plans but is concerned about requiring permeable pavement and eliminating the gravel shoulders that runners use.
County Parks Director Doug Chase said he also is concerned about requiring an unproven type of pavement that costs about three times as much as asphalt.
Center for Justice attorney Rick Eichstaedt and Futurewise regional program director Kitty Klitzke said relaxation of the ordinance should be limited to major public trails.
Land-use attorney F.J. “Rick” Dullanty Jr. said Centennial Properties – a subsidiary of Cowles Co., which owns The Spokesman-Review – is “very much in support of restoring the previous flexibility.”
Centennial Properties has extensive land holdings along the north side of the Spokane River.