Building a pedestrian and bicycling trail along Old Evergreen Highway makes sense for two reasons. Such a project would enhance public safety, allowing walkers, joggers and bicyclists (including nearby residents and visitors) to use the main corridor paralleling state Highway 14 and the Columbia River. They could do so without being threatened by ever-increasing traffic that seems to travel at ever-increasing speeds. Second, such a trail would help local exercise enthusiasts enjoy the oldest and one of the most scenic routes in our community.Reaching that goal, though, has been difficult. For more than two decades, residents of the area have struggled to fund the design and construction of what they envision as a 6.5-mile trail from Wintler Park to Southeast 192nd Avenue.
We're glad to report that the Old Evergreen Highway Trail Committee is gaining momentum. In 2010, the committee was awarded a $925,000 federal grant from the Southwest Washington Regional Transportation Council to build a mile or more of trail west from the intersection of Evergreen Highway and Ellsworth Road. Groundbreaking is scheduled for 2013, with completion of the project set for 2015.
More recently, the plan is to raise about $150,000 by the end of the year to pay for engineering work to determine costs for the entire trail. And the committee came up with a great idea to encourage contributions: They say they're considering naming it the Florence B. Wager Trail, to honor the 2009 First Citizen of Clark County and longtime parks/trails activist who died in August at age 84. Wager, known by many as "Flossie," helped promote the Old Evergreen Highway Trail, and naming the trail after her is a fitting tribute. We encourage local residents to consider donating to the trail engineering fund. Visit http://www.oldevergreenhighwaytrail.com and click on "You can help."
To their credit, committee members have not relied on local tax dollars, instead using the federal trails program grant and private contributions to finance their project. For now, they face a bit of a dilemma: Essentially, they need to raise money to determine how much money they need to raise. The engineering work will allow experts to determine what types of infrastructure are needed for the trail that ultimately will stretch from one of Vancouver's oldest neighborhoods — following what was the area's first paved road — to 192nd Avenue, less than a mile from Camas. As Cheri Martin of the Parks Foundation of Clark County recently said in a Columbian story, "It's pretty hard to raise funds unless you know how much you need."
Highlights on the trail ultimately will include the Columbia Springs Environmental Education Center, with its fish hatcheries close to the highway just east of Interstate 205.
Today, negotiating that long stretch from Wintler Park to 192nd by foot or bicycle is dangerous and not recommended. Neighborhood residents would love to have a trail along the highway so they can enjoy the otherwise pastoral settings with massive trees and awe-inspiring views of the Columbia River.
We hope the committee reaches its fundraising goal so that costs can be fully defined and the next steps can be taken in financing the trail. And we salute committee members for considering Florence Wager as the trail's namesake. Flossie would be thrilled at the honor, and she would be more thrilled at the prospect of promoting public safety by building a trail in the area she loved.