News

Foothills trail a step closer to filling missing link

Buckley Mayor Pat Johnson realizes her town could use a financial shot in the arm and firmly believes the Foothills Trail is just what the doctor has ordered – if only the trail didn’t have a sizable gap preventing walkers, joggers and bicyclists from making their way to the tranquil foothills community.

Johnson has gone so far as to lecture on the subject of community trails and economic revitalization. During her presentations, Johnson compares Buckley’s quiet with Orting’s crowds that jump onto the trail for an hour or more of recreation.

So it’s no wonder Johnson and fellow trail boosters were cheering Dec. 7 when members of the Pierce County Council voted unanimously to authorize the beginning of condemnation proceedings.

The council move could be the first step in obtaining land needed to connect paved trails on both ends. The gap between Buckley and South Prairie is the only missing piece in a trail system that originates in Puyallup.

The condemnation process allows government to take private land for projects that benefit the entire community, while paying landowners a sum determined by an appraisal of property.

While Johnson is pushing for anything that will provide an economic stimulus, others just want to see the trail completed. County Buzz Grant, president of the Rails to Trails Coalition, is among the latter.

Both Johnson and Grant hailed the county council’s decision while warning that paving of the missing trail link isn’t about to happen overnight.

The land at the center of the condemnation issue is owned by Dwight Partin, who operates his South Prairie Creek RV Park on the eastern edge of the tiny community of South Prairie. While all might agree the trail will eventually wind its way through Partin’s land, there’s a question of where. Pierce County officials have said the trail is best suited for a stretch of land adjacent to state Route 162. Partin thinks the trail should go on the southern edge of his property. Because that end is closer to the creek and could come with flood issues, the county argues for the northern piece of property.

Partin and Pierce County have negotiated for years without making headway. Johnson and Grant see condemnation as a way of finally kick-starting the process. Both agreed, however, that another round of negotiating might be in order before the legal system gets rolling.

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