Ferry County's Big Idea:
International Rail-Trail Concept Picking up Steam in Eastern Washington
A group of community members in Ferry County, located in the lightly populated northeast corner of Washington, is promoting the development of a rail-trail that one day could become a national destination for rail-trail enthusiasts. If built, it would become the first rail-trail in the Western United States that connects to Canada's extensive rail-trail system. Eventually running 28 miles from the town of Republic north to Danville/Grand Forks, B.C., meandering through historical towns and passing breathtaking Curlew Lake, the rail-trail would breathe new life into a rail corridor that was once the regional backbone for the timber industry.
Ferry County Rail Trail Partners (FCRTP) was formed to build support for the creation of the rail-trail, and while the project is still in its early stages, momentum has grown as more people have learned about it. "I knew this proposed rail-trail would be an exciting project to be involved with, but I did not foresee the instant and diverse support from so many in the community," notes Bob Whittaker, co-founder of FCRTP. "It's all about getting out the message, the positive facts. In that sense the trail really promotes itself."
Whittaker feels the rail-trail would benefit the local community in a variety of ways. It would connect the small towns of Ferry County to a non-motorized pathway with access to schools, work and shopping. It would promote eco-tourism in the region and promote local economic development. And, it would allow visitors to experience the vast beauty of an area renowned for its majestic forested mountains, rivers and lakes, and open valleys.
FCRTP recognizes the challenges ahead—including working with Ferry County officials to acquire the rail corridor, and creating a broadly supported vision for the trail—but they are committed to making the project a reality. Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's Western Regional Office has been providing technical assistance to FCRTP over the past year by exploring acquisition options with the group, providing materials and research to inform the community on the various benefits of rail-trails and non-motorized transportation, and helping build awareness for the project.