With almost 1,200 responses from its survey, the Thurston Regional Planning Council (TRPC) gathered public input on updating the trail system, revealing community support for new construction that expands the regional network.
At the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) meeting held Thursday, November 2, Katrina Van Every of TRPC updated the TAC members on the recently concluded survey conducted by the TRPC from September 13 through October 9, which received 1,157 responses.
The TRPC is updating the Thurston Regional Trails Plan, which guides the development of multi-use trails for walking, biking, and other non-motorized uses. The proposed updated plan calls for expanding the trail network from the current 60 miles to over 170 miles by 2045, providing trail access within half a mile of over 160,000 people in the region.
According to Van Every, the key priorities identified in the survey included constructing new trails like the Deschutes Valley trail, Gate Belmore trail, and Karen Fraser Woodland trail extension in Olympia.
"These are the priorities for trails that should be funded. These are the big lifts that people want to see funded," Van Every explained.
Van Every noted that 95% of the respondents agreed that TRPC should establish a regional trail planning workgroup. She said there was strong backing for TRPC to hold an annual trail planning meeting and to update the Trails Plan every five years.
"Right now, we don't have a work program to do these things. [The survey] is helping us start a conversation with policymakers to see how high of a priority it is for our region," Van Every said.
The Transportation Policy Board, according to Van Every, requested that TRPC scope out the potential costs for establishing a regional trail planning program. It would include costs for staffing a workgroup and holding annual meetings.
The board also asked TRPC staff to research and propose a reasonable level of funding that could be set aside expressly for trail maintenance projects.
The survey also asked participants what TRPC could be doing to support regional trail development. Responses included involving all user groups in planning, regular community engagement, and updating the plan more than every five years.
One question in the survey asked community members to identify the most significant or complex projects that should be prioritized regionally. Van Every said the two top responses identified by participants were improving trail and street crossings at hazardous locations, as well as planning for and constructing supportive facilities along trails, such as signage, seating, restrooms, and lighting.
The final open-ended question asked for any other trail comments. The top five concerns shown in the survey include:
Van Every explained that TRPC staff will incorporate the public input from the trail survey into the finalized Trails Plan. On November 8, the updated plan will be presented to the Transportation Policy Board for discussion and consideration. Then, in December, the revised Trails Plan will be forwarded to the TRPC Council for approval.
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