A proposed bill renaming Appleway Trail “Senator Bob McCaslin Trail” was presented at a Spokane Valley City Council meeting Tuesday – much to the surprise of some council members.
The bill – sponsored by state Rep. Matt Shea, R-Spokane Valley, and scheduled for consideration in the Washington State House Environment Committee on Thursday – is an homage to the late state Sen. Bob McCaslin, R-Spokane Valley, who served as a 4th District state senator from 1981 to 2011 before resigning due to health complications following heart surgery. He died the same year.
Councilwoman Linda Thompson said while she knew and greatly respected McCaslin, she has concerns about the state Legislature renaming a trail that is a city project.
“I’m not sure renaming it is what I would support, but possibly having a plaque or something at one place that is dedicated in honor of Sen. McCaslin,” she said. “I would not be in support of this bill to have the Legislature be able to change the name we have worked on in our community.”
Mayor Rod Higgins said Shea presented the idea of renaming the trail to council members in attendance at the annual Association of American Cities Conference held last week in Olympia. However, there was no knowledge among council members that a bill would be introduced on behalf of the city, Higgins said.
Councilman Ben Wick said he was caught off guard by the bill because he wasn’t in attendance at the conference.
“I kind of wish it would have come to us – for us to rename it versus a bill by Legislature,” he said at the meeting.
Councilman Sam Wood asked if the state has a right to tell the city what to name the trail and questioned who would pay for the new signage. The bill includes the installation of a plaque, honoring McCaslin, on a section of the trail.
“I think Bob McCaslin did a wonderful job in this community for 30 years, and I have a lot of respect for that man,” he said. “I don’t have an objection to that, but I have an objection to the state coming in and telling us what we have to name our trail.”
Councilman Arne Woodard said he is open to renaming the trail after McCaslin, who also served on the Spokane Valley City Council. Renaming the trail could help preserve the trail.
“I’m more in favor from the standpoint that perhaps it would be tougher to actually maintain access to that trail 35 years down the road,” Woodard said. “We have to think long-range, not just what it is today. I think I’m good with Appleway Trail, but I think it would be better if (the trail) was named. I think it’s going to be hard to destroy a trail that’s named after a senator.”
Appleway Trail was built along the old Milwaukee Road railroad right-of-way owned by Spokane County with the land utilized by Spokane Valley through an interlocal agreement. Several years ago, there was talk among city groups and Spokane County about using the railroad right-of-way for a proposed light rail line from Spokane to Liberty Lake.
Higgins said the council would certainly be inclined to look at renaming the trail if it were initiated by the city, but there are still questions that need to be answered about the cost of new signs and the authority of the Legislature to require a name change.
Higgins said Woodard’s concerns about protecting the trail for future use should be taken into consideration by the council, as well.
“Down the road, we will need that protection, because there are folks out there that think Appleway Trail is a light rail thing, even though it never was,” he said. “It was always on Sprague (Avenue).”
City Attorney Cary Driskell said the city is in a difficult position when it comes to timing, because it appears the House is moving quickly on the bill, and it may be appropriate for the council to delay action until questions can be answered surrounding cost and authority of the Legislature to rename the trail.
The City Council agreed to have Driskell draft a letter to Shea asking for a deferment on renaming the trail until the 2019 Legislative session.