LONG BEACH - At times as convoluted as parts of the Discovery Trail itself, city officials from Long Beach and Ilwaco, and members of the public received a brief history of the trail and an overview of its current status at a workshop on Wednesday night, Oct. 5.
Now that the final northern section from the Breakers to the Clark's Tree monument is paved, they are turning their attention to other unfinished sections and exploring options and alternatives for completing the trail.
"One caveat here," warned City Administrator Robert Strope, "I don't know everything there is to know about the trail because I haven't been here from the beginning."
Two things his research did make clear, though, was that the city of Long Beach has consistently been the lead agency and currently, due to delays and lawsuits, there is not enough money to complete the trail as it was originally envisioned.
"The bottom line is, we do have a shortfall," he told the gathering. He estimated $400,000 would be needed. "With the shortfall, there are a number of things we can do."
After talking to the granting agencies involved, such as the Washington State Park Service, he learned that except in rare instances, the money given was not earmarked for any particular aspect of the trail construction. He said there was nothing formalized in writing specifying how it should be spent, as long as the "intent" of the trail was followed. "If we need to take money from one area and use it for another," he said, "we can shift it back and forth."
The city has also submitted grants for additional funding.
"What's the likelyhood of getting that grant?" asked Council member Ralph Moore.
"If you'd asked me that four months ago I'd have said excellent," said Strope, but with the hurricane disasters in the South and the ongoing war in Iraq he is less confident.
When asked about the progress of the ongoing lawsuit involving some Seaview residents opposed to the trail crossing their property, he said he is optimistic the courts would decide in the city's favor. But some are concerned the litigation would continue.
"These people will never give up," said Long Beach council member Fred Cook. "And justifiably, for having it rammed down their throats." He said the conflict and controversy surrounding the trail was caused by Long Beach's mishandling of the project, "and consequently we're up to our ears in alligators. If it had been marketed right in the first place ... Those same people love to use the trail up here."
Trail construction has also caused some tension between the city of Ilwaco and Long Beach, but recent meetings between the two cities' officials have helped resolve some of the conflict.
Ilwaco City council member Mike Cassinelli called for a coordinated effort so the trail can be completed.
Acting Ilwaco Mayor Doug Hubbard said the city is willing to take over responsibility for maintaining the section of trail in Ilwaco once it was completed.
"It's nice we can work together," said Long Beach council member Gordon Zuern.
Ilwaco officials asked that funds be set aside to pave Ilwaco's section, which stretches from the city's old residential zone westward to Beards Hollow. That section has been constructed and graveled and not paved, and they are concerned it will deteriorate. Some suggestions were offered to allow a shift in funding to provide for paving, such as temporarily eliminating any crossing, such as a bridge or culvert, over the South Main waterway which runs near 30th St. in Seaview
Long Beach officials favor constructing the entire trail but delay paving it until additional funding can be found.
"I don't think we should drop the ball on this," said Zuern.
Mayor Ken Ramsey agreed. "I want to see it completed," he said. "I don't think we'll ever get the momentum going again."
Cassinelli said he does not believe any paving can be done until the spring anyway. The group decided to delay any final decisions until they learn the outcome of the funding request, the lawsuit and cost estimates for the various options.
"We don't have a deadline on this (trail completion)," said Zuern.
"I look at this as a long term," said Cassinelli. "It's a great tourist draw."
"If there's anything we can do to help, [let us know]," said Hubbard, reinforcing the mutual spirit of cooperation.