by Pia K. Hansen
Some come to feed the ducks. Some come to walk their dogs or to spend their lunch breaks. Some come to run. Families ride bikes, lovers hold hands, roller-bladers try to keep their balance -- there are many uses for Spokane's much-beloved Centennial Trail. But there's a slight bump in the road: ever wondered what happens to the trail once it hits Riverfront Park?
"Well, yes, it does kind of end there," says Kaye Turner, with Friends of the Centennial Trail. "It continues on a bike path in the West Central neighborhood, but you can't just ride the trail from there and out to Government Way."
Now a trail can only go so far, but in this case -- because the trail ends before it even gets close to the Spokane Falls -- trail users don't get to enjoy some of the more spectacular scenery the river has to offer. Essentially, the trail is broken off by downtown Spokane.
Connecting the two ends of the almost 69-mile-long trail is a challenge that the Friends of the Centennial Trail have been working on for quite some time. And they do have a solution: it's called the West Link project, and the Spokane Parks Foundation just donated $40,000 toward its completion.
"This project would take the trail down Post Street, underneath the Monroe Street Bridge -- yes, it is incorporated in the bridge restoration project -- and up to the Summit Property," says Turner. "The plan is that Met Mortgage [the owner of the Summit Property] will put the trail in front of their development when they do develop the site." From the north end of the Monroe Street Bridge, the trail will then continue along the river to Ohio Street and Summit Boulevard, out onto the bluff on the north side of the river, right above People's Park.
"If you look down the hill there, you see railroad piers in the river. We are going to utilize those piers to take a bridge across the river there," says Turner. "We'll cross the river and connect to Riverside Avenue. That will give us the opportunity to connect to Government Way and further down the Pullman Highway, to the Cheney-Fish Lake trail."
The problem is that $40,000 is not enough to complete the funding for the entire West Link project.
"We are $172,100 from our goal. We need to raise that before December 31 in order to start the project," says Turner. "There's a federal bridge grant of $200,000 that expires by then. The total price tag is $1.8 million."
Though many trails in Spokane County have been connected to the Centennial Trail, Turner says the trail hasn't been actually extended since it was first laid out in 1989.
The construction of the trail was a welcome side benefit of Expo '74, which reclaimed the part of downtown that is now Riverfront Park. A few years later, in 1979, the Spokane County Parks Department proposed the construction of a pedestrian and bicycle path from Argonne Road to the Idaho state line. But it wasn't until Washington state's centennial in 1989 that the Centennial Trail became a reality.
Asides from the latest $40,000 parks foundation grant, the West Link Project has received financial support from many diverse organizations.
The Friends of the Centennial Trail has raised $9,400 through various community fundraisers. The main part of the $1,627,900 already raised comes from state and federal grants, including a half-million dollar trail grant and a $200,000 Forest Service grant. The West Central Neighborhood Council gave $20,000 and the Latah Neighborhood Council $1,000.
"That means a lot to us," says Turner. "The community support we have gotten, and from so many different groups, really has made a big difference."
Turner doesn't expect the city of Spokane to help out financially, but says the Parks and Recreation Department's support made getting the grant from the Parks Foundation a possibility.
She's hoping that the planned fundraisers and other events -- like the 10th annual Centennial Trail's Day Celebration on June 22 -- will help the group reach its fundraising goal before it's too late.
"We do have a grant writer who's been working with us since January, but we haven't gotten any grants yet," says Turner. "She is writing the Paul Allen Foundation, and many other organizations. We feel certain we can make it."
To help the Friends of the Centennial Trail reach its funding goal, visit www.spoknecentennialtrail.org or call 624-7188.