Save our vision for loop trail, and make it safer

Those interested in the Apple Capital Loop Trail have opportunities to support future visions and make it safer by removing dangerous curves.

I was one of 12 volunteers who studied weekly for six months to develop a vision for the trail and present it to East Wenatchee City Council members and Douglas County commissioners. They are preparing a formal recommendation about the eastside shoreline to the Washington Department of Transportation regarding land use, development and stewardship.

The vision is a practical plan to preserve the trail amidst state requirements to surplus land surrounding the trail. The vision, called Our Shoreline’s Future, is available online at cdlandtrust.org/our-shorelines-future, but to my dismay is not available on either the city or county websites.

Co-chairs Eliot Scull, a retired physician, and Mike Scott, a business owner and orchardist, followed up on the report recently.
County officials agreed the city would take the lead role on the report, so four of us met with mayor and Lori Barnett, the director and only employee in the planning department.

Both city mayoral candidates support acting on the vision. Mayoral candidate Dave Bremmer told me he supports its recommendations. Mayor Steve Lacy wants the planning department to make a recommendation to council members for their approval.
Planning’s recommendation won’t happen until later this fall. Barnett said her department is focusing on plans to use federal funds for downtown renovation projects from Sixth street north.

She believes the planning commission should give full attention to trail recommendations at two monthly meetings beginning in November. That dovetails nicely with Douglas County’s requirement to update its Urban Growth Area Comprehensive Plan in March. She envisions a city public hearing and possibly another one in conjunction with Douglas County for eastside neighbors.

Residents along the trail should be interested based on the current controversy surrounding proposed trail improvements by next spring. Eighty residents opposed and supported the plans at a recent public hearing.

The controversy surrounds plans to straighten out two curves and pave a narrow path for trail access near 32nd street. The county initiated the curve straightening after receiving complaints about the safety of those curves.

Doug Bramlette, county project engineer, explained to those at the hearing that the section no longer meets state and federal guidelines because it’s too steep, too sharply curved, too subject to flooding and totally blind at the northernmost curve.

The only economically feasible plan would move the trail east to higher ground and preserve a gravel footpath for viewing and hiking.
Some mountain bikers don’t want to lose the curves. Adjacent residents oppose the plan because it would eliminate horse pasture and attract more users who already leave too much trash.

They believe an acceptable and more economical plan would consist of warning signs, posted speed limits, speed bumps and a highly visible centerline. Some insist a straighter trail would increase bike speeds. Finally, they argue the plan was secretly planned.

Todd Vibbert is quoted in the Wenatchee World as saying, “I think we’re a vocal minority because nobody knows about the project.”

Actually, plenty of people support the project. Besides numerous supporters at the hearing, Bramlette has received letters of support from the Wenatchee Valley Transportation Council, Chamber of Commerce, Complete the Loop Coalition, Chelan Public Utility District, WenatcheeValley Velo Cycling Club, Wenatchee Outdoors.org and Chelan-Douglas Land Trust.

My wife and I support it. One morning when I rode north around the blind corner a youngster surging ahead of his parents veered out of my lane and then veered right back behind me to pick up speed as he took a tight corner at the blind curve. That was foolish for his safety and the safety of my wife, who was following me. Fortunately he missed her.

Comments are open on the curve straightening until Sept. 30 at 884-7173 or email to dbramlette@co.douglas.wa.us.
So there you have two ways to support our trail: save our trail’s future and make it safer as soon as possible.

Got a comment on Jim’s column? Shoot us an e-mail at weekly@empire-press.com, or visit his blog at blog.jamessrussell.com.




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