West Central residents frustrated by Centennial Trail connection through their neighborhood
SPOKANE, Wash. — A route meant to bring people together has divided the community.
Longtime West Central residents Mike Etter, Pat O’Neil and Louise Chadez criticized City of Spokane plans to connect a gap in the Centennial Trail by extending it through the heart of their neighborhood.
“We just want to see it done right and we are afraid with what they’re trying to do, it’s not right,” Etter said.
The trail will be 12-feet wide with the option of narrowing it to 10 feet in sections that are constrained by private property lines, according to city documents. Some yards that are within the city-owned right of way may be cut into to accommodate for the trail, but the city is working with those landowners on plans.
Etter, O’Neil and Chadez said they had no idea the city was moving forward with the plans until a public meeting last fall. Chadez said even then, it seemed like plans were already set and any opposition wouldn’t make a big impact.
“It’s extremely frustrating. But, I feel like that’s how they do it. They come up with their plan and do it,” Chadez said.
A spokesperson for the City of Spokane said the approved route has been years in the making and a part of public meetings and documents for more than a decade.
“Why change something when it is not broken?” Etter asked.
Avid cyclist O’Neil said he’s worried about the safety of bicyclists. He believes the city needs to at least add a bike lane because cyclists won’t want to be on the trail with walkers through the neighborhood. If they opt to ride in the street, which will be narrower, it could cause issues.
“There are just some big red flags for me with safety, like how pedestrians would be interacting with cyclists and cars on the road as well,” O’Neil said. “It’s really sad to see that the city doesn’t understand that you need to put bike lanes down when you have a big arterial, something that’s regularly used by cyclists.”
Some residents said they’d rather see the route wind below the bluff, cross the river and then meet the trail not far from the TJ Meenach Bridge. This option would require building a new bridge or updating an aging existing one.
“We all want to complete the gap. We simply want it to be done in a way that is safe for neighbors, safe for bicyclists, safe for kids, safe for the community and is aesthetically a positive place,” Chadez said.
The city argued that this alternative route would be far more expensive and have significant environmental consequences. Plus, the grant money paying for this project can’t go toward a new plan, according to city documents.
More than 100 people have signed a petition calling for another option. Some of those citizens plan to be at Monday night’s city council meeting to share their opposition during the public comment period.
The City of Spokane is getting insight from residents in the area now. Construction bids will likely go before the council this spring.
You can read a list of frequently asked questions about the project here.
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