There’s a chance the John Wayne Pioneer Trail in Whitman and Spokane counties could get $1.2 million in improvements as early as 2013.
Washington State Parks is seeking a federal grant to pay for 80 percent of the improvements, including a trail deck and safety rails on the Tekoa Trestle in northeastern Whitman County.
The work could take place next year if the grant is approved.
The trail is on the former right of way of the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad, better known as the Milwaukee Road. The Milwaukee Road went into bankruptcy in 1977 and the state acquired large segments of the right of way in 1982.
It is the same historic rail line that carries the Route of the Hiawatha Trail in North Idaho and the Iron Horse State Park segment from the Cascades to the Columbia River.
Monte Morgan, of the Tekoa area, said the wheat- and lentil-farming community is looking forward to having an improved trail as an attraction for tourists and locals alike.
“We’ve got it (the trail route) cleared and ready to go to the Idaho border,” Morgan said last week.
The plan calls for trailheads, toilets, information kiosks and other trail improvements from Malden eastward to Rosalia, Tekoa and the Idaho state line, a distance of about 35 miles. The trail cuts into Spokane County in two short segments northwest of Rosalia and again near the state line.
Trail users will get a panoramic view of Tekoa, population 850, from atop the trestle.
An application for federal funding was submitted in January, following a series of community meetings last year.
Bill Fraser, regional state parks planner for Eastern Washington, said residents of the area had mixed opinions on the need for trail improvements, with some landowners expressing concerns that the trail could attract problems.
But recreation trail users have been enthusiastic about the improvements, he said.
“I think (the trail) is a tremendous opportunity” for attracting new users, Fraser said.
Among the current users are members of the John Wayne Pioneer Wagons and Riders group, which rides the trail annually in May and early June.
“The folks in the John Wayne club would love to see that (improvements) happen,” said Jay Adams of the group, which will be in Rosalia on June 2 for the Battle Day Parade.
Nearly 200 riders participate in the cross-state journey each year, he said.
Adams said portions of the trail through the Columbia Basin are still off limits to recreational users, mostly because of private ownerships.
The John Wayne trail in Eastern Washington could be a complement to the Fish Lake and Columbia Plateau trails south of Spokane as well as a new Ice Age Floods Geologic Trail motor route under development in Washington, Montana and Idaho.
Morgan said trail users would like to see the John Wayne trail connected with the Route of the Hiawatha Trail in North Idaho, but private ownership in Idaho is creating problems in making the connection near Plummer.
Aggressive drivers targeted
The Spokane Valley Police Department is starting a new effort to target aggressive driving.
Records show that city police received 2,198 complaints about reckless driving in 2011.
Unmarked vehicles are going to be used in the enforcement, said sheriff’s Deputy Craig Chamberlin, spokesman for the police.
An education component will also be included in the effort, he said.
Meeting set on Sullivan bridge
Also in Spokane Valley, city engineers are planning a community meeting from 6-7:30 p.m. on March 14 to talk about construction staging for a new Sullivan Road Bridge span for southbound traffic.
The meeting will be held at the CenterPlace Regional Event Center.
Weight restrictions were placed on the bridge last year, but removed recently after the city invested in temporary shoring.
The long-range plan calls for funding a $19.7 million replacement.
For more information, contact Craig Aldworth at email@example.com or at (509) 720-5001.
To sign up for email updates, go to spokanevalley.org.
Corridor will compete for grant
Local officials said last week that the North Spokane Corridor will be competing for a federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (Tiger) grant as one of the state’s top three funding priorities.