The funding search begins for implementing the Regional Trails Plan as the Thurston Regional Planning Council adopts the updated plan to expand the trail network throughout the county over the next 20 years.
On Friday, December 1, the TRPC vice chair Clark Gilman clarified that in adopting the resolution, the council was agreeing to three things:
The updated trail plan proposes adding about 110 miles of trails for 170 miles of 16 corridors. The current network consists of 60 miles across 14 corridors. The plan aims to improve access to trails for the growing population, which is estimated to reach over 160,000 residents within half a mile of a trail by 2045.
Citing a TRPC survey, senior planner Paul Brewster said the community members supported the plan's focus on increasing funding to construct new trails. Specifically, the community wants to see the Deschutes Valley Trail, the Gate Belmore Trail, and the Karen Fraser Woodland Trail extension in Olympia completed in the next 20 years.
When discussing implementing the recommendations in the Regional Trails Plan, TRPC Executive Director Mark Daily stated that the next step is securing funding to implement the many recommendations. He said some strategies, like forming a regional trail planning advisory workgroup, would require dedicated resources. He noted that if the council decides these recommendations are priorities, funding would need to be allocated through the upcoming call for projects process.
Daily noted that TRPC will explore options to include trail-related projects in their upcoming call for projects process.
Ideas like maintenance set-asides, forming an advisory workgroup, and hosting annual trail planning meetings could potentially be proposed as initiatives for funding support.
During the discussion, council member Robin Vasquez asked how TRPC could ensure the jurisdictions responsible for maintaining trails, like Lacey and Olympia, would be adequately staffed for maintenance. She noted that this could be a future concern for the cities.
TRPC senior planner Paul Brewster responded that one of the recommendations in the Regional Trails Plan is forming an advisory workgroup composed of agency staff and community members. He noted that this group could provide value as a peer network for jurisdictions to discuss issues like better-coordinating maintenance responsibilities or having interlocal agreements to share resources and take responsibility for routine maintenance of certain trail sections.
Other council members agreed that more discussion with the trail managing agencies was needed to determine reasonable options and funding needs for maintenance set-asides before proposing projects for consideration.
TRPC members also discussed concerns about ensuring safe and accessible crossings on busy roads like the Martin Way corridor, where new funding will go towards the first phase of improvements. Connecting existing neighborhoods to trails and improving trailhead security through increased lighting and patrols were other public priorities the council supported staff addressing.
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