Foothills Trail fans who keep close watch on their favorite ribbon of asphalt have come to realize two things: some developments are major, like new pavement; and some steps seems quieter, tied to governmental process rather than construction.
The latter step is where things stand now, as trail users continue hoping to see the day when a bridge spans the White River and connects trail segments in both Enumclaw and Buckley.
The municipal process now in play rests in the hands of the city of Buckley, which has advertised a “notice of application for land use permit.” The applicant is King County’s Department of Natural Resources and Parks and there’s an opportunity for public comment on the request, with a public hearing in the future.
Specifically, King County is seeking permits that would allow construction of a bridge over the river and continuation of a trail until it meets with the present Foothills Trail in Buckley.
The anticipated project has been advertised and posted on the Buckley website and the deadline for comment is drawing very close. Written comments must be delivered to Buckley City Hall no later than 4 p.m. tomorrow (June 17).
Getting the appropriate permits OK’d by Buckley is a crucial step in getting a final piece of the trail puzzle in place. Already available is a continuous, paved pathway that stretches 20-plus miles from Buckley to near Puyallup, passing through South Prairie and Orting along the way.
On the King County side, there’s a continuous trail that starts north of Enumclaw, passes through using wide city sidewalks and continues south. A trail running parallel to state Route 410 has been in place for years and, during the past 18 months or so, the county finished a stretch from 252nd Avenue Southeast to the largely unseen (but historically significant) Boise Creek Bridge.
The permit application now on file with Buckley would clear the way for all remaining work – continuing the trail from Boise Creek, placing a bridge across the White River and adding needed trail on the Pierce County side.
The biggest hurdle – physically, governmentally and financially – is the bridge itself. The fact that it spans a waterway that is home to fish on the endangered list adds to the intrigue.
But plans are in place and funding has been secured from a variety of sources.
The long-awaited structure – identified as a footbridge, but with the capability of handling vehicles in an emergency – has been planned for years. It’s a joint undertaking of both King and Pierce counties, along with the cities of Enumclaw and Buckley.
Trail boosters have perhaps grown accustomed to hearing of a bridge in the works, with their hopes dimmed each time. The county’s Parks and Recreation website still notes that trail construction “is scheduled to take place during 2018 while the bridge is scheduled to be set in place the following year.”
Trail construction running south of Enumclaw occurred in 2020 and 2021 and the possibility of a bridge seems more promising than ever. Paul Weed, Buckley city administrator, is assuming the permitting process will continue into 2022 followed by construction that could see a span across the river open to trail users in 2023.
That hope is shared by Chris Erickson, project manager with Natural Resourced and Parks. In an emailed statement, Erickson wrote:
“As far as a project update, we are striving to complete the multi-jurisdictional permit review process, get all the permits issued in line with entering the bid phase in October. Our current schedule projection is to get the project awarded to a contractor by the end of the year with construction starting in early 2022 and being completed in early 2023.”
But Erickson’s message came with a caveat. He continued, “This schedule is contingent upon the multi-jurisdictional permit application review and permit issuance as well the market conditions at the time of bid as the project does have a limited budget.”