The Transportation Policy Board (TPB) voted to recommend that the Thurston Regional Planning Council adopt an updated regional trails plan.
At the TPB meeting on Wednesday, November 8, TRPC Senior Planner Paul Brewster said the plan proposes expanding the existing trail network from about 60 to nearly 170 miles by 2045. This would connect an estimated 160,000 people – about 42% of the county's projected population – to the trail system within half a mile.
The plan recommends constructing 110 new miles of trails, with about 50 of those miles deemed “conceptual” routes that would require further feasibility studies.
Citing a TRPC survey conducted September 13 through October 9, Katrina Van Every of TRPC said community members expressed support for the plan's focus on increasing funding to construct new trails to expand the network. Top priority trails the community would like to see completed in the next 20 years are the Deschutes Valley Trail, the Gate Belmore Trail, and the Karen Fraser Woodland Trail extension in Olympia.
During the discussion, TPB Community Representative Michelle Murray raised safety concerns about using the existing regional trail system. She said some people stopped using the trail because of safety issues.
Murray specifically mentioned that some trail users no longer feel secure because of the presence of homeless individuals along the trails or camping in areas nearby. "And stuff like that has caused a lot of discomfort. People I know have stopped using the trail because they don't feel safe," says Murray.
Brewster outlined some recommendations in the trail plan, including increasing the number of patrols on the trail network. He said community law enforcement or volunteer organizations could conduct these additional patrols.
Brewster said that increasing the number of people utilizing the trails would help make users feel safer. With more trail traffic, there are more "eyes and ears" on the network, which tends to enhance security overall.
The senior planner noted that the plan calls for installing lighting at select locations that have yet to be determined. These locations would likely be areas experiencing existing safety problems. Specifically, Brewster said lighting is proposed at street crossings to help improve visibility for trail users from motor vehicle traffic.
Trails advisory committee
The TRPC staff, according to Brewster, will work on scoping out a 2024 work program to determine how to convene a trails advisory workgroup.
As part of recommending adoption of the regional trails plan, TPB, in September, tasked staff with establishing an ongoing trails advisory committee.
TRPC Executive Director Marc Daily said the staff does not currently have the capacity or funding to facilitate such a committee through their existing work programs and budgets.
To help fund the advisory committee, Daily said the staff proposes submitting a project through their next call for transportation projects covering 2025-2030. They hope to tap into contingency funds from redistributed federal dollars to cover costs soon.
Daily said TRPC would then submit another proposal through the 2030 call for projects to fund the committee from 2030-2035 using those allocated funds.
Daly said this approach could help get the advisory committee up and running more quickly by seeking contingency funding in the next few years while ensuring it has a dedicated funding source through the regional call for projects process beyond 2030. The advisory committee would advise TRPC on implementing the trail plan and on addressing emerging community priorities for the regional trail system.
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Tuesday, November 14 Report this