Most of the trail follows the course of the river until the route becomes a puzzle as it leaves Riverfront Park and joins city streets for 3.5 miles until restarting as a scenic asphalt ribbon near the T.J. Meenach Bridge.
Closing at least a portion of this car-filled trail gap has been a yearslong goal of trail advocates and city officials.
By the end of the year, one of the longest stretches that shares roadway with cars will be shortened.
The trail is set to slip from Riverfront Park through the new Kendall Yards development along the north bank of the river west of downtown.
“This is the most exciting thing that has happened to the Centennial Trail since it opened 20 years ago,” said Loreen McFaul, executive director of Friends of the Centennial Trail.
The trail along the Spokane River gorge will offer picturesque views of the Monroe Street Bridge and Spokane Falls. Eventually, it will share the road again at Summit Drive and wind down Pettit Drive.
Officials still are debating how to cover the remaining gap. Part of the trail could travel on former railroad bed. Some trail supporters hope that it will someday cross the river along a pedestrian bridge where there currently is a utility bridge. Others say it’s more realistic to continue using T.J. Meenach Bridge.
On Thursday, the Spokane Park Board will consider the financing package that will be used to finish the trail in Kendall Yards.
Greenstone Corp., the company building Kendall Yards, is required to build the trail. But it is not required to surrender the land.
The Parks Department won a $2 million grant to buy reaches of the trail west of Monroe as well as other land between the trail and river, including property that includes the western tower of the Riverfront Park gondola ride.
Appraisals show that the trail and land is worth more than what the city will pay. The city’s appraisal was valued at about $3 million. Kendall Yards’ appraisal was more than $5 million.
Greenstone will pay to maintain open space bordering the trail to the north of the path, including a park. Kendall Yards plans call for 1,100 residential units. About 120 have been built.
The city plans improved signage to help bicyclists know where the trail is in Riverfront Park until it crosses the Post Street Bridge, said park director Leroy Eadie.
Associate City Planner Andrew Worlock has worked on the project through city property. From Riverfront Park, the trail will head north along the east side of the Post Street Bridge. It will cross Lincoln Street just north of Bridge Avenue before crossing Bridge Avenue at the Lincoln Street intersection to connect to Veterans Park.
Worlock said city officials opted to use existing crosswalks in part because it’s unclear if Bridge Avenue will eventually be closed to traffic and because plans are unsettled on the future replacement for the Post Street Bridge. Many have called for a new bridge to be closed to cars.
“Ultimately, what you want is to have the trail be a little more direct,” Worlock said.
The trail through Kendall Yards eventually will include public art as part of an expansion of the city’s Sculpture Walk.
Karen Mobley, the city’s former art director, said space will be reserved for art, which likely will be funded privately.
“There won’t be an empty platform with a light fixture,” Mobley said. “It’s more about leaving blank spaces.”
City Councilman Jon Snyder said he supports the property deal because it protects the land for public use in perpetuity and finally fills an important gap in the Centennial Trail.
“It’s a huge, huge win and it required some creativity,” Snyder said.