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A quagmire of hog fuel
Many years ago, someone had an idea that we could use the abandoned railroad beds for bike and horse trails. This idea gained some momentum for a while and we did get a lot of beautiful trails put in to accommodate horses and bikes.
We still have a railroad bridge across the Stillaguamish Rivers that is more or less abandoned for trail or any activity. The state put the new highway bridge in some years ago and is now putting a new stretch of highway just north of the Stillaguamish River. They immediately took out the old highway bridge, which could have been used for trails are public crossing.
This made our only hope for a trail across the river the old railroad bridge as originally planned. The new highway bridge that crosses the river is designed for bike crossing only on one side and not designed to be use for a bike trail.
The stretch of railroad bed just north of the river now has limited access for any type of use or maintenance, so consequently it has grown up quite a bit with brambles. The county sometime this year went around the base of the railroad grade to get a tractor in there to do some mowing.
The state now has spent thousands of dollars purchasing easements for the new road improvement. The easement for the railroad was already designated for public use and there are thousands of people wishing for the Centennial Trail across the Stillaguamish River to have easier and safer passage to the top of the land rise at the north edge of the floodplain. There could have been a trade-off to accommodate the trail and the new section of road, eliminating the dangerous curve at the base of the hill.
The section of road hugging the toe of the floodplain has a gentle arc defining the differentiation between the floodplain and the higher ground. There have been concerns for the safety of motorists, as well as bikers, on that stretch of road for years, mainly because of traffic exceeding the speed limit. The widening of this road with the use of the railroad easement could have easily been a solution, a win-win proposition for the Centennial Trail and the highway commuters.
The highway project appears to me to be in a quagmire of hog fuel and will be that way for many years because of the sensitivity of Harvey Creek and the Harvey Lagoon. Now the state has come in and inundated the whole area with hog fuel. In photos I took Dec. 6, the farm shows oily residue and water running into the lagoon through what was supposedly the netting protection for the lagoon.
The state has many qualified engineers to make any proposal happen but it is beyond the highway engineers for a proposal of a bike trail to accommodate a family outing when they are working on highways. The expenditure of money for this project could have accommodated a broader spectrum of interest and provided an alternative, from people just speeding down a straight stretch of highway through an environmentally sensitive area, with no concern for the oily residues running into the water.
I know there is quite a difference between hindsight and foresight and there will always be a great difference between what is and what could have been.
Here in the 21st century, we are in what is called a virtual money system. This means that there is enough money for anything we want, when it is allocated for a desired project. I personally would like to see the state provide a way for a family to cross the river with their bicycles and baby strollers.
The sensitivity of the environment and the people who ride their bikes should be acknowledged as both are an important part of our future.
There are lots of people who want the Centennial Trail finished.
Gene Ammon, caretaker at
Portage Wildlife Sanctuary