Ten Great Things Happening in Washington State

Posted 02/03/14 by Amy Kapp in America's Trails

Photo © Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust

It’s impossible to hit even 1 percent of the things that make Washington a mecca for self-propelled transport and trail development. The state is a long-recognized national leader in these areas, harnessing federal funds, and promoting and enacting policies that have led to some of the most walkable and bikeable communities in the country. In 2013, Washington was named the most bicycle-friendly state in the U.S. for the sixth year in a row by the League of American Bicyclists. And, Washington continues its commitment to smart growth, demonstrated in part by its 20-year plan to enact strategies addressing $1.6-billion-worth of bicycling and pedestrian improvements.

There’s no denying that Washington is a place where nature, development and active transport are one with each other (for real; see bike-in-tree story by Discover Washington State)—but we’ll let the evidence “speak” for itself.

Kicking off our month, here’s a list of 10 great things making the Evergreen Stateevergreener.

1. Bridging the Gaps from Mountains to Sound

For more than 30 years, the Mountains to Sound Greenway has served as a place for outdoor experience, recreation, education, agriculture, development and opportunity in the 1.5-million-acre area spanning from Seattle and across the Cascade Mountains into Central Washington. Such an iconic place deserves attention, and so it was music to our ears to hear that the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust is leading the creation of a 3.6-mile trail connection near the I-90/I-405 interchange from Factoria Boulevard to the eastern end of Bellevue. This will be a vital regional trail link providing a safe, active transportation option for families in this very urbanized area.

2. Get On the “Schoolbike”

Here’s what fifth-grader Clara had to say to Cascade Bicycle Club in Seattle: “We all live in a community, and it is up to us to take care of it. Biking to school makes me feel like I’m doing something good for the earth. If you bike to school one time, it makes you want to do it again and again.” It’s kids like Clara, a year-round bike commuter, that have inspired the club in partnership with Washington Bikes to promote the creation of more bike-to-school programs in the state. On Feb. 8, the partners are holding a workshop for educators, community leaders and the like who wish to start their own programs and promote a bike-friendly culture in schools. And the best part: it’s free!

Fun fact: The Cascade Bicycle Club Education Foundation runs bike-to-school programs that impact 3,500 kids annually.

3. Speaking of Washington Bikes…

This statewide bicycle advocacy organization—which aims to “cultivate the growth of bicycling”—has helped ensure the passage of a majority of bike legislation adopted in Washington for the past 25 years. This past year, their impressive wins included the signing of the Neighborhood Safe Streets Bill into law by Governor Jay Inslee and the restoration of the Safe Routes to School Grant Program to its pre-2012 level, resulting in $18.45 million in investments between 2013 and 2015. (This is the highest rate of investment in Washington State history.)

And one win that’s really cool: In Senate Bill (SB) 5263, Concerning motorcycles overtaking and passing pedestrians and bicyclists, an amendment facilitated by Washington Bikes and Cascade Bicycle Club added a three-foot passing distance requirement for motorcycles overtaking cyclists and pedestrians in the travel lane. Safe routes for all.

4. Badger Mountain’s Friends – Part 1

We were pleased to hear from Fun, Fit and Over Fifty Club President Dennis Trimble. His Richland-based group is dedicated to bringing adults aged 50 and over together for all things active + outdoors, in order to promote “physical, intellectual and social health.” They are particularly fond of the 5.5-mile trail system at the 574-acre Badger Mountain Centennial Preserve; many club excursions take place in this beautiful scenic escape, and the club is also serving as a sponsor for the Badger Mountain Challenge ultramarathon 15K this spring. It’s news like this that proves active lifestyles and active transportation are truly lifelong pursuits. Photo courtesy Fun, Fit and Over Fifty Club Website

A shout out to Trimble for bringing this next set of business to our attention…

5. Badger Mountain’s Friends – Part 2

There are some exciting developments taking place with regard to the aforementioned trail system. According to Friends of Badger Trailmaster Jim Langdon, “There are plans in play to connect a trail from Claybill Park in Richland to the Yakama River near Benton City—a length of around 20 miles.” Major, right? Especially when he adds that the end result will be a trail system that connects Badger Mountain with the ridges of Candy and Red mountains.

Congratulations to Langdon, who was recently honored with a 2013 Conservationist of the Year award by the Benton Conservation District for his work related to creating and maintaining the Badger Mountain trail system. 

6. Bike Swapping in Spokane and the Centennial Trail

Now in its third year, the two-daySpokane Bike Swap and Expo (April 12-13, 2014) brings together a couple thousand people, 40-some vendors and hundreds of used bikes registered for sale. What’s even more inspiring: The funds raised are donated to Friends of the Centennial Trail, a group dedicated to maintaining and developing the 20-year old and as yet, unfinished, 37.5-mile Spokane River Centennial Trail, and its adjacent parkland. 

And they're really churning it out; the friends group has just completed gap closures at the Washington-Idaho border, Veteran’s Park and Kendall Yards (providing a vital connection to downtown Spokane), and the group is actively working on eight more connections along the trail.

7. Washington Trails Association Gets Top Honors x 3

Just a few months ago, the Washington Trails Association—which mobilizes more than 3,000 volunteers annually to repair and maintain trails—was recognized by the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Funding Board for three projects as part of the Recreational Trails Program. This means $150,000 green ones to help support volunteer trail teams who maintain more than 600 miles of trails in the Evergreen State. Recognition like this is imperative, we think, in a state where outdoor recreation contributes more than $11.7 billion annually to the local economy. 

“Our state’s mountains and forests are important recreation areas. Without these grants, many trails would not reopen after winter storms and summer fires,” says Kaleen Cottingham, director of the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office. “The work done by the trails association and its volunteers keeps trails open for countless numbers of hikers, mountain bikers and others.”

8. WABI-ists of Burien

What’s in a name?  Sometimes everything.  WABI Burien is short for Walk/Bike Burien, an organization dedicated to nurturing a walk-bike culture in their 100-year-old waterfront community along the Puget Sound. We were pleased to hear about their recent bike-rack effort, which according to WABI Burien President Maureen Hoffmann was an original raison d’etre when she and other local walking/biking advocates set up as a nonprofit a few years ago. And in 2013, in partnership with the city’s parks and recreation department and with support from the Washington State Community Economic Revitalization Board, they saw this goal fulfilled, installing 23 custom bike racks in the downtown area (with plans to install 18 more in the coming future).

"Through the Downtown Burien Bike Rack Project, we want to encourage people to be active and healthy, to shop local and to consider alternate ways of getting around town,” Hoffmann recently told RTC. 

9. Eastside Rail Corridor Trail Emerging in Kirkland

We like writing about game changers, and it’s looking like the Eastside Rail Corridor trail has the potential for such a moniker. 

Thanks to some great updates viaTom Fucoloro’s Seattle Bike Blog, we’ve learned that a group called theEastside Trail Advocates is leading the charge for a high-quality paved trail along the corridor that could rival some of the best trails in the Seattle area.

And we were especially pleased to find out that earlier this year, the City of Kirkland was given the go-ahead to create an interim crushed gravel trail on the portion of the corridor running through their jurisdiction. They are also in the process of developing a master plan for the trail corridor, which will likely include a paved hiking and biking trail. Check out the latest update by Fucoloro, or learn all about the project on Kirkland's website

10. Northgate Link Light Rail to Be “Feet Friendly”

In 2012, the Sound Transit Board voted to allot up to $10 million for pedestrian infrastructure at the future Northgate Link Light Rail station, scheduled to open in 2021 to connect the Northgate, Roosevelt and U District neighborhoods to downtown Seattle and the airport, thanks to some serious local advocacy. We want to shout out Feet First—a Seattle-based nonprofit dedicated to promoting walking, and the rights and interests of pedestrians—for leading the charge. It’s estimated that by 2032, 92 percent of 15,000 daily riders will access the station by walking, biking or bus. We can’t think of a better reason for the pedestrian-friendly design.

But if you’re still not sold, check out this Youtube video by Feet First and the Rainier Beach Touchstones project.

We know there's a lot to highlight in Washington this month, and we've just scratched the surface. So we want to hear from you! Do you know of a trail, project, local organization or citizen that deserves recognition? Tell us! Email amy@railstotrails.org, or share through ourfacebooktwitter or instagram feeds - #RTCWAState

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