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Talking the Walk
Twisp trail moves forward

The town of Twisp has cleared the first hurdle to building what is meant to become a three-mile long pedestrian trail through town and along its riverfront.

The donation by Sarah Bennett of Twisp of a 10-foot wide right-of-way across residential riverfront property and the donation by Tina Heath of Winthrop of a 20-foot wide easement on a vacant riverfront parcel adjoining the town pool mean the town has satisfied conditions for receiving an $80,707 reimbursement grant from the state’s Recreation and Conservation Office (RCO). The grants pay for acquisition expenditures such as surveys, appraisals and legal costs. The same agency funded Winthrop’s Susie Stephens Trail.

photoTwisp town council member Traci Day on a portion of the Twisp pedestrian trail located in an easement donated by Tina Heath.

“Twisp is where it’s at,” an enthusiastic Traci Day, the town council member shepherding the project, told Grist. “We’ve got to be the last town in Washington that doesn’t have a pedestrian trail. Even Pateros has a trail and they don’t even have a grocery store.’” But she stressed that a great deal of work must be done to secure more funding if the three-mile trail is to be completed by 2017.

The RCO requires that the town provide a 50 percent match for the grant, and the value of the donated lands satisfied that requirement, said Day. The town actually provided a 52 percent match, according to RCO spokeswoman Susan Zemek. Most of that came from the value of the land donations although $7,200 came from donated labor, Zemek added.

Property donated to the town by deeds of right-of-way become town property, Day said. The Heath easement does not transfer ownership to the town but awards the right of use for trail purposes to the town in perpetuity, she added.

“A community trail along the waterfront in Twisp has long been a wish of mine,” Heath wrote to the town council in 2010. “I am convinced that it would add value to the land of all property owners along the trail path and be an asset to the community.”

“I’ve owned that property for 30 years,” Heath told Grist. During all that time people have been working on trying to get a trail built, she observed. “The miracle worker was Traci Day. She just keeps at it.”

“I think it will be really nice,” said Bennett of the trail that will run in front of a house she owns. “People walk there all the time. They should be allowed to enjoy it.” She added that building a trail will give the kids, deer and others who frequent the path “a place to walk that is not my flowerbeds.” She said the town agreed to build a fence that will separate her front lawn from the trail.

Trails built with RCO funds must conform to requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which means portions of Twisp’s trail will have to be graded and leveled. Day said the town is considering using a compacted gravel surface rather than asphalt, but no design work has been started. That will require further funding, she explained, and the town will pursue private as well as public funding sources for the next phase of trail development.

photoTwisp town council member Traci Day walks along the portion of the Twisp pedestrian trail that will pass under the Methow River Bridge.

The town had hoped to include as part of Phase I acquisition a portion of trail that would begin at the Twisp River’s edge below Hometown Pizza, cross under the Twisp River Bridge and continue west along the riverbank in front of the Twisp Pub and Twisp River Suites, said Day.

But Washington State Department of Transportation officials have informed the town that they want to see an engineering study showing how the trail can be built under the bridge to avoid any possibility of harm to its structure, said Day. The town does not have funds for such a study so that portion will be delayed until Phase II.

But all the property owners along that portion of the trail have signed letters of intent to allow the trail across their properties, she told Grist. They include Mike Port, owner of the Hometown Pizza property, Aaron and Becky Studen, owners of the Twisp River Pub, and Joe Maver, owner of Twisp River Suites.

Taking the trail under the bridge is meant to solve a pedestrian safety issue, said Day. “It gets people off the highway crossing.” She said the crossing just south of the bridge between the Twisp River Pub and Hometown Pizza is dangerous, especially for children living west of Highway 20 who use that crossing to get to Twisp Park. From the Twisp River Suites, the trail will link, via roughly five blocks of town streets, to the Salmon Recovery Project trail at the west end of town.

In Phase II, the trail is to continue along town streets, which would be paved with sidewalks, from the riverfront dead end of Second Avenue to the Methow River Bridge at the south end of town. Once again, the trail would duck under a bridge. But this time it would circle back to the top of Highway 20, where pedestrians would use the bridge to cross the river.

Once across, they could turn right on Marble Street and follow it past the industrial park to where Marble Street ends, then turn right and double back to follow the riverbank north to the Lloyd property on the east side of Highway 20.

Again, letters of intent have been signed by all the property owners along this portion of the trail: the Lloyd family, Bob Ulrich, Hank Konrad and Mike Port, according to Day.

The industrial park, grandfathered in as an existing industrial use, is bordered by two properties that were rezoned for commercial use eight years ago, said Day. This means the trail would run along riverfront property that is zoned for hotels, condos and retail stores but not single family housing, she said. The Lloyd property also was rezoned for commercial rather than industrial use, she added, though the hillsides to the east of it are zoned for single family dwellings.

To pave the way for the trail project, the town council first had to complete its parks and recreation plan, said Day, a Twisp resident since 1970 who formerly served on the town’s planning commission. And Twisp is the first town in Okanogan County to have completed a Shorelines Master Plan, said Day. That plan will guide future development along the two rivers that converge in the town.


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