Surveying the situation on Bay Avenue for new trail

WSDOT employees Sandy Kemp, Longview, and Frank Bohm, Vancouver are surveying Bay Avenue and Sandridge Road as part of initial engineering work for the proposed Ocean to Bay Trail in Ocean Park and Nachotta. Photo by Robert Brake

OCEAN PARK - Local residents or visitors walking, biking, or motoring along Bay Avenue the past two weeks may be wondering what the surveyors they've spotted are up to and why they're planting small stakes along the road. Actually, they are part of an ongoing project to create a safe and aesthetically pleasing trail along that heavily trafficked road.

Frank Bohm, of Vancouver, and Sandy Kemp, of Longview, are plotting the right of way from the west end near the public restrooms and the Full Circle Cafe all the way east to Sandridge Road and north to the Port of Peninsula road at 275th Street. Bohm and Kemp, Washington State Department of Transportation Highways and Local Programs employees, expect to finish their work by May 30.

The Ocean to Bay Trail project is now well underway, after nearly a year of planning sessions, public meetings, and efforts by area residents and D.O.T. to secure initial funding. Ken Hash, D.O.T. Assistant Local Programs Engineer, has been instrumental in working with a large number of Ocean Park area citizens on the project.

The principal purpose of the project is to improve Bay Avenue for motorized and non-motorized users including commercial traffic, RV drivers, senior citizens, K-12 students and other pedestrians. The proposed trail project would improve the visibility of pedestrians and bicyclists and improve traffic flow and parking patterns along the approximately 1.5-mile section of Hwy 103.

The Bay Avenue Trail Committee has met over a dozen times to develop a plan for a safe walkway and bicycle trail that would allow residents and visitors to navigate the heavily-used Bay Avenue corridor safely. And progress has been made.

Citing the heavy traffic, limited lighting, narrow roadway shoulders, and the possibility of accidents along the route, Hash and others have secured approximately $68,000 of a projected $150,0000 needed for preliminary engineering. The project involves construction of a bike/pedestrian pathway from the Pacific Ocean to Willapa Bay along one or both sides of Bay Avenue and along Sandridge Road from Bay Avenue north to the Port of Peninsula vicinity.

Major future work will involve right of way, clearing, preparing subgrade, draining, paving, and striping. The proposed route through downtown Ocean Park will include sidewalks, bike lanes and parking. From Ocean Park to the east end of Bay Avenue, the project entails detached bike/pedestrian trails on one or both sides of the road. The Sandridge Road portion of the project will consist of two 6-foot wide bike/pedestrian shoulders.

Hash noted that Bay Avenue and Sandridge Road in the Ocean Park area are important transportation and recreational routes for residents and visitors. Joggers, walkers, bicycle enthusiasts, and ADA permanent residents and summer residents all use these roads year-round, partly because the terrain is flat with gentle hills and partly because traffic is sometimes light, except for holiday weekends.

During fair weather conditions, many students walk along Bay Avenue enroute to the Ocean Park Elementary School. At other times, notes Pacific County Sheriff John Didion, Bay Avenue becomes one of the most heavily trafficked and dangerous stretches of road in the county.

Improvements to increase the safety and aesthetics of the roadway have become an important incentive to plan and implement the proposed trail. Linda Hanlon, who headed up the initial planning sessions, suggested that, in addition to improving safety along the trail route, the project can also provide a unique attraction for Ocean Park - a Pacific Ocean to Willapa Bay scenic corridor that connects state park beach access to Fish and Wildlife and Port of Peninsula interpretive and public areas.

The project has the support of Pacific County, WSDOT, Port of Peninsula, the Pacific Council of Governments, and the Ocean Park Area Chamber of Commerce. Current secured funding has been obtained from the Port of Peninsula, WSDOT, Pacific County, and the Pacific Council of Governments. Hash has also submitted a major request for federal funding to U.S. Congressman Brian Baird.

The total estimated project cost would be approximately $2 million. Projected completion date for the project is summer, 2004, in coordination with Hwy 103 preservation work.

There appears to be a broad-based support for the trail, including the Ocean Beach School District, Ocean Park Area Chamber of Commerce, the Pacific County Economic Development Council, and the Washington State Department of Transportation. The Bay Avenue Trail Committee has solicited community input through a series of public meetings and door-to-door visits with businesses and residents along the proposed trail route.

Residents have been invited to view specific maps of road sections to be modified and provide their specific suggestions for the design and implementation of the trail. Questionnaires have also been distributed and residents have been encouraged to provide feedback to Ken Hash and other committee members.

Summarizing the potential benefits of the Ocean to Bay Trail Project, Hash cited the improved travel and recreational safety for residents and visitors as the principal advantage.

Other benefits include improved access to the beach approach and Willapa Bay, improved recreational and interpretive opportunities, improved access to parking, improved aesthetics and curb appeal, improved safety for shoppers, school children, and bicyclists, and increased tourism and shopping in Ocean Park resulting from a "new look" that may attract more people to the business district.

The Trail Committee meets again on Thursday, June 26 at 9:30 a.m. at the Fire Station in Ocean Park. The public is invited. For more information about the Trail project, contact Ken Hash at hashk@wsdot.wa.gov, call (360) 905-2216 or fax messages to (360) 905-2218.

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