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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Newly paved Ben Burr Trail gets mixed reviews

Changes to the Ben Burr Trail, including a wider and paved pathway, have earned mixed reviews from bicyclists and walkers.

Some like the wider pathway, smooth pavement and safety features, such as protective fencing.

Others said they miss the old trail that was more like a nature walk than a developed trail connection.

Last week, the nearly completed trail segment carved into the bluff above the East Central Neighborhood between Underhill and Liberty parks drew plenty of use from walkers, joggers and bicycle riders.

“It’s a big change, but it’s pretty nice,” said bike rider David Jones.

“It’s much more inviting than it was before,” he said. “It’s still kind of an oasis down there.

The new trail will offer bicyclists a way to get to the downtown area without having to ride on busy arterials, Jones said.

But others said the old trail was OK with them.

“They took out all of the mock orange and (some) trees,” said Nan Farnwell, a regular trail user who preferred the old trail, which was built on a historic commuter rail bed.

The original trail stretches about a mile between the two parks with several access points along the route.

The city of Spokane is in the middle of a $1.7 million project to widen and improve the historic trail and extend it northwestward to connect with the Centennial Trail in the Riverpoint area and a bike corridor on Second and Third avenues.

Last week, the Perry Street underpass beneath Interstate 90 at Liberty Park was closed for trail construction.

Grading work has been done on trail extensions from Liberty Park westward along Third.

Heading north from Perry, the trail will skirt the embankment for the Hamilton Street bridge and then join up with Erie Street and the extension of Martin Luther King Jr. Way.

“The trail will be separated from the roadway traffic and aligned parallel to the Spokane River, allowing pedestrians through access with greater aesthetic experience” in the King Way segment, said Julie Happy in her weekly street construction report.

The trail along MLK Way is being built in lieu of sidewalks.

When completed, MLK Way is expected to improve traffic circulation in the University District and Gonzaga University areas.

The city obtained grants to pay for construction.

Farnwell, who objected to the project, said the city did not have to take the money.

Her comments paralleled others voiced by neighbors during the planning stages two years ago.

The 12-foot-wide paved pathway also has 2-foot shoulders on each side. The old trail was 6 to 8 feet wide.

Rock work was installed to stabilize portions of the trail along the steep hillside.

Fencing is being installed where drop-offs from the trail are steep and dangerous. The idea is to protect trail users from a nasty tumble over sharp basalt rock.

The trail also was designed for handicapped access.