Blue Mountain Region Trail Network paving the way to become bicycle friendly

Washington state is home to many natural wonders and national forests with diverse eco-systems. 

And now, a regional plan called “Blue Mountain Region Trails — Ridges, Towns & Rivers” is figuring out how to increase access to our natural wonders by bicycle, walking or even by horse. This coordinated effort between the Blue Mountain region’s cities, counties, health departments, ports, regional and federal agencies has resulted in a technical assistance grant from the National Park Service’s  Rivers, Trails & Conservation Assistance program to develop a regionwide non-motorized trails and transportation plan that would result in improved health, access to outdoor recreation and economic vitality. This project highlights many of the intersections explored in panels at the upcoming Washington Bike Summit. 

The plan looks at the region holistically, examining everything from how children can safely walk or bike to school to how can access to outdoor recreation support small town economies. The regional plan will be completed by early 2018 so all of the Blue Mountain region cities can incorporate this into their respective comprehensive plans. The primary goal is to improve the connections between cities in the region for non-motorized transportation, including walking, biking and horseback riding. It also incorporates access to schools, encourages outdoor recreation and improves economic development in the region. 

Currently the planning efforts are in full swing. The first round of community engagement resulted in huge turnouts in support of the project with over 450 attendees at the first round of workshops. Child care, food and simultaneous Spanish interpretation were provided at all workshops. All workshop materials were provided in English and Spanish. Mary Campbell of Community Council — one of the co-applicants on the NPS grant — found that, “ in our experience hosting workshops, we  always have more community members attend if we conduct them in the early evening and provide childcare, food and simultaneous Spanish interpretation… we also ask ‘trusted messengers’  to help us with outreach to our Latino community.” 

Inclusion has always been central to the Blue Mountain Region Trails project. To facilitate a great community engagement process, Mary suggests to “think about every possible barrier and then find solutions to those barriers.” 

The next round of public input is coming up in May, when community members will be asked for their feedback on conceptual ideas developed by planners based on the input they have received through the May workshops and other means on potential trail alignments, urban bikes routes, etc.

Cascade is also working with the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) and local planners to place permanent bicycle and pedestrian counters along key routes in Walla Walla and the surrounding county  to help us quantify how many people use the existing roads and trails. These counters will count 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and greatly increase the data available to cities in the Blue Mountain Region, which will help them understand bike travel in a much more comprehensive way.

To learn more about this project, other regional trail networks around the state and the importance of bike counters join us at the Washington State Bike Summit in Olympia on March 20 - 21. You will have the chance to connect to local leaders on this project and advocate for your regional trails at our transportation lobby day. Register today!