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Aug. 15, 2022

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Ridgefield to complete Gee Creek Trail with $1.2 million federal grant

By , Columbian county government and small cities reporter
3 Photos
A $1.2 million federal grant will fund completion of the north segment of the Gee Creek Trail, fully connecting existing segments.
A $1.2 million federal grant will fund completion of the north segment of the Gee Creek Trail, fully connecting existing segments. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

RIDGEFIELD — The city’s growing trail network will add a key connector in the next couple of years.

The city plans to complete the north segment of the Gee Creek Trail as soon as 2023, according to Public Works Director Bryan Kast. U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, announced last month that funding for the project had been secured through a $1.2 million Federal Lands Access Program grant.

The segment will run between Heron Drive and Main Avenue. Roughly 4 miles long, the trail extends from Ridgefield High School at the south to the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge just north of city limits.

The trail offers access to the city’s downtown area and waterfront, and the new segment will connect Abrams Park and Union Ridge Elementary School to the wildlife refuge.

In a letter to the U.S. Department of Transportation in December requesting the dollars, Herrera Beutler called the project “the last critical piece to connect all the other segments and fully establish the trail.”

“The trail is the centerpiece of Ridgefield’s long-envisioned trail network built in segments over several years,” the congresswoman wrote. “I have been assured by project sponsors and local governments that the property owners and neighborhoods adjacent to the trail have been communicated with about this project and support it.”

The grant requires a 13.5 percent local match of $193,000, Kast said. He said that will likely come from city park impact fees.

Kast said the city is still working with grant administrators on a specific time line but anticipates that construction will begin in 2023.

“The Gee Creek Trail is the backbone of the city’s trail network and will also serve as a portion of the countywide Lewis and Clark Trail,” Kast said. “This is a very important segment of the Gee Creek Trail.”

Built in segments

The first portion of the trail opened in 2009. Other parts of the trail cost about $3 million to build.

Construction of the segment between Abrams Park and Heron Drive was completed in 2018, and the portion from Pioneer Street south to South 19th Place was finished by 2019. Vancouver-based homebuilder Pacific Lifestyle Homes constructed segments north and south of Royle Road over the past three years, and a portion from the Hillhurst neighborhood to the Osprey Point neighborhood is planned for construction this summer.

Ridgefield’s population nearly doubled in the last decade, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The wildlife refuge is a regional attraction, with roughly 160,000 annual visitors.

The Ridgefield City Council has set a goal to build one mile of trail per year. City officials have made a priority of creating multiple transportation options and connecting people to nature, Kast said.

In 2019, another project funded by the Federal Lands Access Program — also involving the city, wildlife refuge and Clark County — connected downtown to the wildlife refuge with a sidewalk and trail.

Columbian county government and small cities reporter

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