December 20, 2012 in City, Outdoors

Centennial Trail’s Friends see path ahead

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Turner
(Full-size photo)

Map of this story's location

The Spokane River Centennial Trail is the envy of cities across the country and a local fixture for walkers, runners, cyclists, skaters, even anglers.

But what you see isn’t all you should get out of the 37.5-mile route. With 30 miles of 12-foot-wide trail safely separated from traffic, more can be done.

“Our priority is connecting the gaps,” said Kaye Turner, Friends of the Centennial Trail executive director for 13 years. “It’s simply not finished.”

Turner is retiring as the group prepares to celebrate its 20th anniversary of keeping the trail on the radar of regional planning.

Most sections of the paved trail from Riverside State Park to the Idaho state line were completed between 1989 and 1991. Since then, the Friends group has been instrumental in fundraising, making improvements, coordinating planning and scoping out extensions.

Riverside State Park manages the trail in cooperation with Spokane County and the cities of Spokane and Spokane Valley. The route joins another 21 miles of trail in Idaho to Lake Coeur d’Alene.

“The Friends group helps keep all the entities connected,” said state park manager Chris Guidotti. “That’s an important role. They are the face of the trail to the community.”

Surveys indicate the trail is used about 2 million times a year. The Friends group has about 350 members, down from 450 a few years ago. “Nonprofit groups are well aware of the hard economic times,” Turner said, “but we’re getting things done.”

She listed six priority projects for the trail:

• Extending the trail near the west end from Sontag Park about 1.5 miles to Nine Mile Resort on Lake Spokane (also called Long Lake).

• Addressing the gap from T.J. Meenach Bridge to Boone Avenue, a difficult project because of private property issues.

• Constructing trail in the gap from Boone Avenue to Monroe Street. The route will follow an old railroad bed below Summit Boulevard to Kendall Yards, where developers are constructing trail. The trail will be routed under the Monroe Street Bridge toward Riverfront Park.

• Rerouting and marking the trail through Riverfront Park.

• Bridging Mission Avenue, a dangerous crossing of a busy intersection that may be resolved with an underpass.

• Negotiating the Argonne Road area, where the county and Inland Empire Paper Co. are looking at options that could route the trail under the Argonne Bridge.

“We’ve gone to the meetings to get our trail guidelines and these projects in all of the comprehensive plans the cities and county are using,” Turner said.

With her part-time assistant and 13-member board, Turner and the Friends get high praise for accomplishments generally unrecognized by the public.

“Kaye was key to raising more than $240,000 in matching funds for the Sandifur Bridge project in 2002,” said Jon Jonckers, a Friends board member.

“She has done a remarkable job and left them in a good financial position to move forward,” Guidotti said.

“We just finished repairing flood damage that occurred a couple years ago at Barker Road,” he said. “By working with the Friends and other partners, state parks got a $65,000 project that we couldn’t afford done for $10,000, which was within our means.

“Spokane Valley engineers did the design and the Friends put up $7,500 for rock placement to make the project a go.”

The group raises money for its Trail Builders Fund, which recently was tapped for $17,500 to plan a road crossing safety improvement that should be completed near the state line by June.

“Grants are extremely limited to nonprofit groups that aren’t linked to human services,” Turner said, noting that “We raise most of our funds in the community.”

Businesses have recognized the trail’s importance with contributions, and the Friends have held fundraising events, such as an auction that has been replaced by partnering with the Bike Swap set for April 13-14.

A monument in Mission Park has replaced the old Miracle Mile program that saw more than 3,600 medallions cemented along the trail to honor Centennial Trail donors. Now donors can designate names to be inscribed in granite.

The Adopt-A-Mile program has attracted 32 groups, families and businesses as stewards of a stretch of trail. Three miles of the 37-mile trail are still available for adoption.

Unveil the Trail, a day of spring cleaning, has been an annual event for 18 years. “About 400 people from various groups show up for a fantastic turnout,” Turner said.

“These volunteers tend to be all business. They don’t want festivities. They work hard, pile bags of trash by a milepost for city crews to pick up and then they leave and get ready to use the trail for the season.

“Fundraising is important, but the priority is keeping doors open, volunteers involved and finishing the trail,” Turner said.

Contact Rich Landers at 459-5508 or email richl@spokesman.com.


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