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

Spokane County could help preserve Trolley Trail with land purchase

Molly and Adam Marshall first walked the Trolley Trail 25 years ago.

They’ve seen it in spring, when arrowleaf balsamroot flowers turn the forest floor canary yellow. Every once in a while they run into a moose traveling along the old railbed. On Monday, they paused in the clearings to look out over a snow-dusted Latah Valley.

“This is the gem of the neighborhood,” Adam Marshall said.

The Marshalls and other Grandview-Thorpe residents want the Trolley Trail preserved. They may be about to get their wish.

The Spokane County commissioners on Dec. 6 will decide whether to spend $250,000 to acquire nearly 4 acres of private property that are, informally, part of the Trolley Trail.

If the acquisition goes as planned, the official portion of the trail will become roughly half a mile longer through a combination of land purchases and easements.

It won’t be a straightforward real estate acquisition.

Spokane County will pay for the property with funding available through its Conservation Futures program. That program collects about $2 million annually through a small tax on property owners and uses those dollars to buy and maintain conservation areas.

While the county is paying for the property, Spokane will buy, own and manage it. As part of the agreement, the city is securing trail easements on other properties directly south of the 4 acres.

When the acquisition and easements are complete, people will be able to follow the Trolley Trail without trespassing from roughly 18th Avenue to Assembly Road.

Among Spokane’s urban trails, the Trolley Trail is unusual. It was a literal trolley trail a century ago.

The Washington Water Power Co., now known as Avista, operated an electric trolley that carried thousands of day-trippers from Spokane to Medical Lake, then a tourist hot spot due to the supposed healing powers of its waters.

The trolley stopped running in the early 1920s, thanks largely to the advent of the automobile, and most of the old railbed no longer exists.

Paul Knowles, Spokane County’s parks planning, development and real estate manager, praised Grandview-Thorpe neighborhood residents for their efforts to protect the Trolley Trail.

“Kudos to the neighborhood for continuing to advocate for the preservation of the trail,” he said. “The neighborhood has just been phenomenal in keeping the flame of hope alive on that.”