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Thursday, September 19, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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The John Wayne Pioneer Trail rides into the sunset

FILE - Bike riders cycle on the abandoned railway called the John Wayne Trail near Rosalia. (Rich Landers / The Spokesman-Review)
FILE - Bike riders cycle on the abandoned railway called the John Wayne Trail near Rosalia. (Rich Landers / The Spokesman-Review)

Rest in peace

The John Wayne Pioneer Trail

1981-2018

Deemed confusing, no longer relevant. Plus, The Duke himself spent “no significant time” in Eastern Washington.

The John Wayne Pioneer Trail is no more.

On Thursday the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission voted unanimously to rename the cross-state trail. The new name is the Palouse to Cascades State Park Trail.

Part of the rationale for renaming the trail was that it had two names.

The cross-state trail was called the John Wayne Pioneer Trail. However, the trail was contained within the state’s thinnest, and longest, state park. The Iron Horse State Park is between 100 and 200 feet wide and runs nearly continuously from North Bend to the Idaho border near Tekoa. The roughly 10-foot-wide John Wayne Pioneer Trail was contained within the middle of Iron Horse State Park, according to a Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission spokeswoman.

“This overlapping trail-naming scheme has created some confusion,” said Steve Brand, the parks director of planning.

The new name was recommended by Washington State Parks staff. The name “conveys the sense of the scale of the trail,” Brand said to the commission members, who met in Spokane.

Additionally, John Wayne spent “no significant time” in Eastern Washington and “had no direct connection to the trail or really anything to do with it,” Brand said.

As for the Iron Horse State Park, which was named with a nod toward steam engines and the Milwaukee Railroad, Brand said there are at least eight similarly named trail systems in the United States and Canada.

The name change will cost the state parks commission about $32,000.

It will cost $25,000 to change freeway signage on the west side of the state. It’s estimated it will cost an additional $7,000 to change signage on the east side of the state.

The new name, Brand said, is descriptive and follows department naming policies.

Plus, the new name, staff and many commission members think, unites the two halves of Washington.

“It’s really putting Eastern Washington at the forefront of this and recognizing that this is … theirs,” Brand said.

Commissioner Mark O’ Brown said he supported the new name because it recognizes some Native American history – the Palouse Tribe – and it unites both sides of Washington.

“What opportunity am I going to have in the future as a citizen or commissioner to unite us, to bridge the cascade curtain, whether real or perceived,” he asked, rhetorically.

A representative from the Friends of the John Wayne Pioneer Trail said the group would rather the name not be changed. But, if it was going to be changed, they supported the Palouse to Cascades State Park Trail name.

There were some objections, both from commissioners and members of the public who attended the meeting.

Commissioner Steve Milner questioned whether the new name was marketable. He proposed the commission postpone voting on the change in favor of presenting the proposed name to a marketing firm. His proposal was rejected and Milner went on to vote yes on the name change.

“This is a bit of a mouthful,” he said of the new name. “It seems to me that the iconic trails of history have been short, brief and to the point.”

Milner also pointed out that the public voted, overwhelmingly, to not change the trail name, instead asking officials to keep the Iron Horse State Park Trail moniker. State parks officials pointed out that the name was never intended to be chosen by vote.

More than 400 comments and 55 alternative name suggestions were submitted, including Cascade Reach State Park Trail, Evergreen State Park Trail, Gandy Dancer State Park Trail and Thunderhawk State Park Trail.

One person at the meeting asked why it was necessary to change the trail’s name in the first place.

“Why spend the money on it,” he said. “We need money for the trail. It’s already named.”

The state purchased the trail corridor from the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad in 1981. The trail goes from North Bend and ends at the Idaho border near Tekoa, Washington. However, the Washington State Parks and Recreation Department does not own all sections of the trail. The Department of Natural Resources owns some sections as do private landowners.

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