Buoyed By Drafting Error, Trails Group Treks To Capitol To Continue Fight

Jan 29, 2016

A delegation from a tiny eastern Washington farm town is rallying to protect a walking, biking and horse riding trail that spans the state. They trekked to the Capitol to make their case.

The John Wayne Pioneer Trail is a former railroad that stretches 250-miles across Washington from the Cascade foothills to the border with Idaho. Much of the trail east of the Columbia River is unimproved. Some adjacent landowners have complained of litter and noxious weeds.

Last year, the legislature tried to turn a portion of the trail over to local landowners. But problems with the drafting language derailed the transfer. Ted Blaszak -- a town councilman from Tekoa, Washington, population 778, on the border with Idaho -- considers it divine intervention.

“The trail was officially closed by the legislature, but because of this act of God, the trail remains open today,” Blaszak said.

Now Blaszak and others are lobbying the legislature to put money into upgrading the trail as a tourism and economic development opportunity for rural Washington. Lawmakers are unlikely to act this year. That’s because the Washington Parks Department has now convened an advisory committee on the trail’s future.