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Lower Valley Pathway part of county’s trails plan

Photo by Jennie McGhan.
Yakima County Planner Jeff Hagler explains the county’s trails plan to those attending a public forum last night in Zillah.

ZILLAH – Community leaders and the public last night voiced their ideas and thoughts about Yakima County’s trail plan, which is also included in the county’s comprehensive plan.

Leaders representing the Lower Yakima Valley attended the meeting in Zillah, including representatives of the Lower Valley Pathway Association.

The Lower Valley Pathway currently provides citizens from Prosser to Sunnyside a place to walk, run or bicycle. The association has been in the past few years looking for ways to expand the pathway to Outlook and Granger.

Yakima County, in its plan, has proposed projects that include 40 miles of pathway that connects Lower Valley communities. The proposed routes connect Sunnyside to Granger and Mabton, as well as a route from Granger to Mabton.

Jeff Hagler, the county planner, said Yakima County last updated the trails plan in 2008. The county is in the draft process of a new plan to be submitted to county commissioners and the state’s Recreation Conservation Office (RCO) for approval.

The plan, said Hagler, provides the county the ability to seek grant funding for future projects.

Currently, the county is working on its plan to complete the Naches Trail.

Alan Adolf of the county’s public service department said the county received grant funding from the RCO in the amount of $1.6 million for the project. There is one last piece of the Naches Trail that has yet to be funded.

“For the new cycle, the county is interested in securing additional RCO funding aimed at the missing link of the Naches Trail,” said Adolf.

Hagler said, “At that point, we are wide open.”

He said once the Naches Trail is complete the county will be looking at pathway proposals for future projects.

Hagler asked those attending the meeting to review the draft of the trails plan and maps to determine if the county has left anything out or if it should consider adding additional routes to the plan.

Gary Martin, president of the Lower Valley Pathway Association, shared some ideas. He said the purchase of old rail beds might expedite the process of building pathways.

He said communities and the county should explore such an option before development overtakes the rail beds.

Stan Bos, also of the Lower Valley Pathway Association, asked the representatives from Yakima County if the Washington State Department of Transportation has funding available for pathway projects.

Adolf told those at the meeting that there is funding, but the process for securing funding is very competitive.

“Most of the funding goes to projects on the west side of the state,” he said.

Hagler said the Lower Valley Pathway Association could look at different strategies for expanding the existing pathway. He said getting the support from communities like Granger and Zillah might provide the expansion a head start.

“The county could help fill in the gaps,” he said.

That is what happened with the Naches Trail. The city of Naches paved a large section of pathway and Yakima’s Greenway Association provided the funds for another large piece of the project.

Adolf said that project was the first one that the county partnered on.

Yakima County played a role in the development of the existing Lower Valley Pathway, but it was not a partner on the project, according to Hagler.

That is why there is a trail plan in place now. The county, he said, is interested in such partnerships.

Dave Veley, the county’s parks manager, said, “A positive function of the plan is that it shows how the communities can be connected to each other.”

The information and ideas shared at the meeting will be included in the draft proposal to be submitted to Yakima County commissioners. Once the commissioners approve the plan, it will be forwarded to the RCO.

The draft is currently available to the public online at yakimacounty.us/transportation/parksandtrails.htm.

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