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

Stretch of Centennial Trail east of Spokane to close this summer for resurfacing

Frequent users of the Centennial Trail in eastern Spokane County will need to find a new place to bike, jog and meander this summer.

The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission will begin resurfacing 14 miles of trail in the coming weeks, the first major improvement to the eastern portion of the trail since it was originally built more than 30 years ago. 

Work will stretch from the Idaho-Washington line to the Donkey Island Trailhead in Millwood, and will include maintenance and repairs to kiosk structures, pavement marking improvements, and the refurbishing of the steel posts that act as barriers to cars entering the trail, in addition to the 1.5-inch asphalt overlay.

Rex Schultz, community engagement manager for Washington State Parks, said crews will begin work at the state line and make their way west until reaching the end of the construction zone. The section of trail is expected to reopen around Labor Day Weekend in September. He said he couldn’t provide the total cost of the project until later this week.

“Fourteen miles is a long way, but it’s been a long time coming,” said Loreen McFaul, executive director of the Friends of the Centennial Trail. 

McFaul said the nonprofit has advocated for improving the aging trail for years. Decades of wear and tear and tree root damage have left the edges of the asphalt trail crumbling and the surface riddled with cracks.

“I’ve been in this role for over 12 years, and it’s been a conversation that has been on the table since I started,” McFaul said. “The old asphalt is, just like a street, it’s past its useful life. So it’s time to get it in that overlay and get it in better shape than it’s in.”

The work will be funded in part by a $10,000 grant from the Friends of the Centennial Trail, McFaul said, in addition to state and regional grants. The state parks department has also dedicated a portion of its capital budget to the project.  

About 2.5 million cyclists, skateboarders and early morning joggers use the trail each year.

McFaul said it can be easy to take for granted how one of the region’s most accessible, heavily used and far-reaching outdoor recreation sites came to be all of those things. 

“That’s the beauty of Spokane and Eastern Washington, is there were a lot of forward-thinking community leaders and citizens who came forward over 20 years ago to make this trail a reality,” McFaul said. “I’ve been told many times that if we tried to build it again in the footprint right along the path of the river, we’d spend over 200 years just in the shoreline permitting process.”

“The trail was built at the right time, in the right place,” she added.

McFaul said her organization and the state parks department hope to continue renovating the trail in the coming years, including another phase of the  asphalt overlay project. The proposed 11-mile continuation of work will stretch from the TJ Meenach Bridge through Riverside State Park to Carlson Road.

Washington State Parks is in the process of applying for grant funding to help complete the second phase of the overlay project and is seeking community input via an online survey to inform what improvements could be made to enhance a trail user’s experience. Work could get underway by 2027, if funding is secured.

“We hope this is just the start of some great things for all 40 miles of the trail,” McFaul said. 

Schultz said visitors can stay up to date on trail closures, construction progress and trailhead reopenings this summer through the Centennial Trail website and the project’s website

“The great news is, it’s 40 miles long,” McFaul said. “So yes, nobody wants a closure and nobody wants construction. But we are breaking it into chunks, communicating out the plan and having contractors in place that are really dedicated to getting this done the right way, as quickly as possible. So, we’re excited and hoping that by Labor Day it’ll be back open.”