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Environment and Planning
Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Washington Legislature. Austin Jenkins is the Olympia correspondent for the Northwest News Network. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

Buoyed By Drafting Error, Trails Group Treks To Capitol To Continue Fight

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Tom Banse
/
Northwest News Network
Like the Columbia Plateau State Park Trail, pictured here, the John Wayne Pioneer Trail passes through the wheat fields and scablands of eastern Washington.

A delegation from a tiny eastern Washington farm town is rallying to protect a walking, biking and horse riding trail that spans the state. They trekked to the Capitol to make their case.

The John Wayne Pioneer Trail is a former railroad that stretches 250-miles across Washington from the Cascade foothills to the border with Idaho. Much of the trail east of the Columbia River is unimproved. Some adjacent landowners have complained of litter and noxious weeds.

Last year, the legislature tried to turn a portion of the trail over to local landowners. But problems with the drafting language derailed the transfer. Ted Blaszak -- a town councilman from Tekoa, Washington, population 778, on the border with Idaho -- considers it divine intervention.

“The trail was officially closed by the legislature, but because of this act of God, the trail remains open today,” Blaszak said.

Now Blaszak and others are lobbying the legislature to put money into upgrading the trail as a tourism and economic development opportunity for rural Washington. Lawmakers are unlikely to act this year. That’s because the Washington Parks Department has now convened an advisory committee on the trail’s future.