Beverly Crossing

Beverly Bridge

“The trestle across the Columbia River connecting the western and eastern trail sections at Beverly is currently CLOSED, gated, and unsafe to cross.Trail supporters hope for renovation of this trestle in the future. The nearest bridge across the Columbia River, the I-90 bridge at Vantage, does not provide for pedestrian or nonmotorized traffic. There is no shoulder nor sidewalk, and the crossing often involves heavy traffic and high winds.
“Please contact your legislature and the State Parks Department to encourage them to fund upgrades and improvements to the John Wayne Pioneer Trail”.

The Friends of the John Wayne Pioneer Trail posted this recently and of the bridges and trestles that need attention along this excellent multimodal route, this is chief among them. Of the many people I’ve talked to this bridge represents the most significant obstacle for completing the whole state crossing. The alternate Vantage crossing (via Interstate-90), the current way to cross the river, is dangerous if you’re in a car, and feels much like playing Russian roulette with a semi-automatic pistol while riding up the grade toward the eastern shore. A sketchy proposition; we shouldn’t be asking if an “accident” will happen, only when.

From the East Side of the Columbia

The Elephant

This spring a number of public meetings have been held regarding the fate of the eastern portion of the JWPT, specifically, the 130+ mile stretch known as the Milwaukee Road. Two key issues have been distilled from the pot of problems adjacent landowners have raised and neither of these concerns directly addresses this critical problem with the trail. The Beverly Bridge and its alternate crossing are apparently an afterthought given the recent State Congressional attempt to give away a significant portion of this public resource.

Trespass

First, trespassing; supposedly users of the JWPT are violating property rights along this corridor.  I will say that I find this claim somewhat specious, actual trail users are often attempting to move through the corridor and tend to be conscious of the narrow boundaries that define the trail. But it is worthy to note that access issues, such as the one presented by the Beverly Bridge, could be pushing users onto private property in order to bridge places along the trail that have been neglected beyond safe use.

If the Washington State Parks department can get off their hands and address basic trail maintenance issues (with the help of the State Congress) then I think it’s safe to say that trespass will magically disappear.

Weeds

Second, the issue of noxious weed control keeps coming up. Folks, Washington State, has one of the most progressive invasive species programs in the country if not the world. Just like its Parks Department, however, it is understaffed and underfunded. Here again, the narrowly averted cure to this problem, proposed last year, is worse than the disease.  If the sole source of weeds is the JWPT than reporting them to the correct authority is a far more workable option. My experience suggests that areas were noxious or invasives are common we’ll find that the trail is merely supporting populations at densities similar to adjacent private lands.

I’m encouraging trail users to record the geolocations of noxious weeds, with a picture if possible, and report them to the appropriate County Weed Control Board.

No one likes to get flat tires, and no one likes the potential problems an ingested noxious weed might present for a horse or livestock along the JWPT. The workable solution to this problem is control, and that means that both trail users and landowners need to make regular use of the reporting and control boards for each county while demanding accountability at the state level.

Deny Value

Each community along the JWPT stands to lose much should this human powered thoroughfare ever be gifted into the hands of private ownership. The route ultimately stretches from the Pacific Ocean to Chicago, with branch lines spanning many northern states. And just within Washington State, it represents a nearly-finished bicycle autobahn.

European countries have long recognized the importance of these networks. They represent potential for increased tourism, low-cost mobility, cultural conservation, and place of community pride-in-place. The potential economic impacts are more than enough to justify this fight; by “fight” I mean the sustained conservation and recreational development effort that is needed to reopen the Beverly Bridge.

The point of this all being that a loss or even interruption in the JWPT represents a diminishment in the value of the public resource to the communities which still exist along the corridor. Both of the issues I’ve mentioned above, which have become the core focus of public hearings, are an attempt to appease a tiny handful of private landowners along the route. And, I would argue, distractions which threaten to delay or derail the kind of development that the trail needs to become an internationally recognized recreation corridor.

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Washington State Flavored Derp

Two state House Republicans, Joe Schmick (9th district) and Mary Dye (also 9th district), have proposed scrapping a significant chunk of the Iron Horse State Park Trail. In the plan, the 2015-17 capital budget called for the state to transfer ownership of part of the trail to adjacent landowners “to improve noxious weed control and achieve improved land stewardship and wild fire response.”

I’ve run, and ridden parts of this section of the John Wayne trail and I can confirm that it is not well used, however, deciding to scrap this piece of historic Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad seems about as effective as giving Wilderness to mining companies. Yes, we know that it’s not well used. That’s never been the point.

Both members point to the “cost” of trail maintenance while never actually acknowledging what maintenance on this disused segment might run the State. Ted Blaszak, a councilman and president of the Tekoa Trail & Trestle Association, is quoted in the Spokane Spokesman-Review, saying it’s “a blatant land grab … nothing less than public thievery.”

And while I cannot comment on the veracity of this claim it the land transfer, what amounts to little more than a gift of public land to private owners, seems suspicious.

Given the potential earning power of this trail, this appears to be another fine example of Republican budgetary myopia. The economic impact of the tourism this trail, especially in its entirety, might have far outweighs the maintenance costs the State has, up to this point, completely ignored.

Ask yourself, “where are all those piles of tumbleweed coming from?” The railroad grade certainly isn’t growing them, and nothing is stopping the same adjacent landowners from being good stewards of this public land as-is. Or “why have the tressels along this route fallen into decay?” You’d think that if the capital budget had contained even a little money for maintenance this might not be the case. At 253 miles, it’s the nation’s longest rail-trail conservancy easement and if that weren’t enough every segment along its length is rich with tourist attracting history.

The fact that Schmick and Dye have completely missed this obvious opportunity is telling. Why is Eastern Washington such an economic wasteland?” Ladies and gentlemen, you have your answer.

IOTD

Micah True “Caballo Blanco” Running Free

“I remember this photo of Ali, running along the beach, on the sand in combat boots, so his boxing shoes would feel lighter when he was in the ring. He said something about the fight being won in the gym, out on the road, long before he danced under the lights. Ali was my Hero. He’d rather go to prison, than go to war. I always respected him for that. He was a great fighter, and a great runner.”When I was 21/22 years old, I had been smoking lots of dope, drinking lots of booze, partying hard.
I always wanted to run free. And I wanted to do something. And, I couldn’t. It was hard. My throat was bleeding. I was panting and feeling like crap, and determined I did not ever want to feel that way again. I thought I was too young to feel that way. It was one of those turning points where you either live, or you start dying. I have had a few of those every seven or eight years. I go through the same thing. So, are you going to let it go, or are you going to live?”

-Micah True

Today’s inspiration is there to help you sure, but it’s more to kick myself in the shorts. Caballo was already an old horse when I ran into him, but as far as I could see he hadn’t been dying until he went.

Last November I hurt my back lifting a goddamned box of ski boots. I’ve been to the doctor, I’ve made trips to the PT, and I’ve even tried to get back out on the trail a handful of times since then. So, between the pains of growing a little older and that injury I’ve let my narrative diminish. I’ve watered it down with excuses.

I’ve always wanted to do something and now I’m not doing. Not doing anything. I feel like I’ve slipped and when I allow myself to think about it, even a little, I feel horribly depressed which makes all the aforementioned sensations feel that much worse.

Here’s the thing. I know what I need to do, I just need to find the cojones to do it. It’s going to be hard, but I’ve been through harder and even better I’ve got examples and heroes like Caballo to show me the way.

So, here I am. At this turning point.

Thanks Micah, much gratitude for showing me the way.