LONG BEACH PENINSULA — The City of Ilwaco is going all-in on seeking funding for a trail that would provide safe passage for pedestrians traveling between Seaview and Ilwaco.
In July, the city applied for a $360,500 grant from the Washington State Department of Transportation, through the agency’s Pedestrian and Bicycle Program and the Safe Routes to School Program, which awards funds on a biannual basis. If awarded, the grant would cover the development and design phase of the project.
The trail, dubbed the Seaview to Ilwaco Connector Trail, would be 1.4 miles long and create a dedicated walking and biking path between the peninsula’s two southernmost communities along State Route 101. Currently, to walk from Seaview to Ilwaco, a person has to walk along the side of the road where the speed limit reaches 45 miles per hour.
In its application, the city says the trail would be beneficial for students, residents and tourists alike by providing safe pedestrian passage to Hilltop and Ilwaco High School, Ocean Beach Hospital, grocery stores, recreation destinations and more. The city claims it would also reduce single car trips, ease congestion and resolve the unsafe bottleneck along this stretch of State Route 101.
The city estimates the cost of the project’s development at $83,500, and the cost of the project’s design at $277,000. Issues that need to be addressed in the development and design phase, before any construction can begin, includes identifying potential right-of-way or easement acquisitions, conducting an environmental review and receiving necessary permits, completing a design survey, and estimating the total cost to construct the trail.
WSDOT will send a final prioritized list of projects to Gov. Jay Inslee’s office and the Washington State Legislature in December, and final decisions on which projects receive funding will be decided during the 2021 legislative session. WSDOT expects to receive about $37.5 million in funding for its two programs that Ilwaco is applying for funding through.
Local support aboundsIn its grant application, Ilwaco included letters of support for the trail from nine local organizations or governmental bodies: Ilwaco Merchants Association, City of Long Beach, Ocean Beach School District, Pacific County Board of Commissioners, Pacific County Economic Development Council, Pacific County Tourism Bureau, Port of Ilwaco, Shoalwater Bay Indian Tribe and the WSDOT Southwest Region.
“The proposed trail will benefit the community in many ways, including increasing access to safe routes to schools, and better access to Grays Harbor College, Ocean Beach Hospital and other services,” WSDOT Regional Administrator Carley Francis wrote in a letter of support.
Andi Day, executive director of the Pacific County Tourism Bureau, said the creation of the Seaview to Ilwaco Connector Trail, which would link to the Lewis and Clark Discovery Trail, helps promote healthy exercise and stimulates economic development.
“[The Pacific County Tourism Bureau] is committed to sustainable tourism growth, and trails are a key component as a recreational asset for both residents and visitors that is available 365 days of the year, regardless of the season or the weather,” Day said.
Although the Discovery Trail already connects Ilwaco and Seaview, it meanders through dunes and forest, and isn’t pragmatically useful as a pure transportation route. The new trail, if constructed, would also allow recreational users to loop through Ilwaco and Seaview without backtracking or having to share part of the route with motor traffic.
Jenna Nisbett, president of the Ilwaco Merchants Association, said she has seen the need for a trail connecting the two communities for many years. As a parent, she said the lack of a safe pathway and the present dangerous conditions is the reason why she never allowed her son to ride his bike to school.
“I don’t even feel safe as an adult on this route either and it has affected my ability to enjoy bike riding and get exercise,” said Nisbett. “I know many people would utilize this much-needed trail if they could connect safely from Ilwaco to Seaview.”