by Jennifer Karchmer
Folks in eastern Washington are trying to save the John Wayne Trail, the 300-mile rail trail that goes from the western slopes of the Cascades to the Idaho border near Tekoa, Wash. Closed to motorized vehicles, the trail follows the former Milwaukee Road railbed, and is open to walkers, joggers, bicyclists and horse riders. In 2002, the federal government designated it a National Recreational Trail.
A portion of the trail came under threat last year when, according to news reports, “two state representatives from the 9th district attempted to include language in an amendment to the state’s 2015 capital budget that would close a 130-mile-long section of the trail east of the Columbia River.”
Later, it was learned that a miswording, referring to the closed section as ‘from the Columbia River to the Columbia River,’ nullified the amendment temporarily. When some residents got news of the typo, and the potential closure, it resulted in public meetings. Residents who live near the trail are fighting to keep it open. Meantime, some adjacent landowners say the trail offers no financial benefit to the state and is costly to maintain.
A grassroots movement to save the trail was started and conversations about getting statewide support have swirled on social media, in particular on the Tekoa Trail and Trestle Association (TTTA) Facebook page. Supporters say widespread backing throughout the state will help preserve the entire trail so they are looking for volunteers to bring the issue to city councils.
“Our major goal now is to get more city council resolutions and to find a State Representative or State Senator to champion our cause,” TTTA President Ted Blaszak said in a Nov. 23, 2015 press release. At least 14 cities had passed resolutions asking the state legislature to protect and repair the John Wayne Trail, according to a Dec. 22, 2015, Facebook post by Blaszak.
For more information, contact TTTA President Ted Blaszak by phone at (509) 284-2080 or e-mail at: email@example.com