Since I had to take the day off to attend, due to the fact that it was scheduled to start at noon, I decided to make a day of it, and planned a ride on the trail prior to the meeting. My buddy and neighbor Chip, who has been doing a TON of behind-the-scenes work in terms of getting the word about this issue out to various organizations and individuals, had also committed to being there, so we carpooled out to Rosalia together.
I had also cast a line out to Rich Landers at the SR, who has shown interest in this issue. He has a busy schedule, but the waters parted at the right time and I hauled a fatbike out for him and we all headed out of Rosalia together at just after 9 this morning, on our short route to connect with the JWPT.
|Rich (L), Chip (R)|
For the time being though, at this 5 minutes in the long history of the trail, bikes are a pretty fine way to experience the JWPT, especially considering the state of evolution of high volume tires that interact exceptionally well with the variable trail surfaces.
On to the meat of this post then, the meeting:
Krappy photo aside though, here's the deal . . .
The community center in Rosalia was PACKED. There were no less than 100 people there, and no more than 120, by my somewhat deliberate attempts at estimating, so somewhere in between. It would have been disastrous if the turnout was low, and so thankfully, this was not the case.
9th District Representative Joe Schmick and Senator Mark Schoesler were in attendance, and are blurrily visible in the upper right corner. At the podium, is blurrily-visible pro-trail activist and Tekoa Trail and Trestle Association member Ted Baszak. This dude is doing so much heavy lifting on this debate, and he is working smart. I'm stopping just short of "man crush", but I have so much respect for Ted and the personal energy he's putting into this. Overall, the meeting was incredibly cooperative and productive, and it is my opinion that Ted's opening statements, which set the tone, were responsible for this.
Over the course of history, I am estimating that there have been about 7 trazillion human conflicts (roughly). Of the small percentage of those that have been resolved to the relative satisfaction of both sides, I believe that somehow, the path forward began with an understanding of the other sides' concerns and frustrations.
If am am right about this, then today's meeting gives me great hope for the future of the trail.
Not because there are any easy solutions. And not because the two sides are even closed to aligned on a path forward. But because there was genuine honesty, and a DESIRE to listen to, and UNDERSTAND EACH OTHER. I learned so much today, about the challenges and hardships that the trail imposes on adjacent landowners. You just cannot sit in that space and listen to some of the stories and not be moved. I hope that the landowners were likewise provided with some insight into why the trail invokes such passion from those of us who value it as a recreational, historical and geologic treasure. And an irreplaceable public resource.
Almost all of the content of the meeting was public testimony, and the testimony went on for over 2-1/2 hours.
My prepared statements were in the vein of the potential economic impact of the trail to the state economy (which is substantial, based on my research), should its potential be developed. But a number of others spoke in the same vein, so that by my turn at the podium, my points were pretty well redundant. So I chose to focus on the theme of understanding and cooperation going forward, during my brief comments.
Which is what I wholeheartedly believe in.
Look, what has transpired in terms of the attempt by Schmick and his group to swoop in and grab the trail under the cover have darkness has come and gone. If we get hung up on that at this point, we are our own worst enemy.
The issue is now out in the light of day and subject to due process and policy, and that is the vehicle that we need to employ.
My overall experience today was so rich as to be mind-numbing, and I am still trying to process it all and figure out where I land, but there are a couple of things that I am certain of, and want to communicate, to anyone who may be tuning in:
- The next public meeting is at Lind, next Monday. I have a concern that trail users will be under-represented. Mondays at work are brutal for me, and there's no way that I can get out there for a noon meeting. If you are able to represent, as a pro-trail advocate, it would be helpful. With that said, this is not my biggest concern.
- The public meeting in Ellensburg is my biggest concern. If a large, vocal, antagonistic contingent from the west side shows up in Ellensburg, that could be really detrimental to the cause. The trail issue in Eastern Washington is delicate and sensitive. Trying to resolve it with a big hammer will be a futile effort. If you are headed to Ellensburg for that meeting, please communicate via your social media network the imperative to be civil and cooperative in nature.
This whole thing is going to take a long time to resolve. We're in it for the long haul. But at least we're now headed down a path that makes sense and has hope, instead of what we were suddenly faced with a few short weeks ago, the consequences of which were unimaginable.
Let's be smart and disciplined, and work hard and cooperatively to find a solution.
Friends of mine provided some great feedback throughout the course of today as far as how my point number 2 above could be perceived as offensive and disrespectful to my west side neighbors. Upon receiving their input, I am just like, "yeah, I totally get it". And so I want to apologize to any west siders that were offended by my poorly chosen words.
I was born, raised, and educated in Spokane. After graduating from college, I married my sweetheart and we moved to Seattle, where we lived and worked for 10 years. We then moved back to Spokane to be closer to family, and especially Patty's and my aging parents. I love the west side and I love the east side, and I love all of Washington. That's the first thing I need you to know.
From my perspective of the genesis and evolution of this whole firestorm, the people that first heard about and rallied to form an opposition effort against the political attack on the trail were the folks in Tekoa. That's about as far east in Washington as you can get, and where the political will to close the trail emanated from. By the time I first heard about it, they had already been aware of it for a few days. The first public meeting was in Tekoa, and I wasn't able to attend, but from the accounts I have read, it was pretty contentious.
Meanwhile, the rest of the state, just like me, was becoming aware of the bullet that had been dodged and what had transpired, and we were alarmed, and trying to figure out what we could do, and those of us who write, were writing about our angst. The whole thing was a pretty major shock, and in response, many of us were somewhat vitriolic.
The three public meetings were then scheduled, starting in Rosalia, followed by Lind, followed by Ellensburg.
My perception is that no one wanted to re-live the tension that existed at the Tekoa meeting, and that this was the impetus for a more civil and cooperative tone at the Rosalia meeting. So there was this evolution in the nature of the dialogue, which was coincident with the physical location of the dialogue moving slightly from east to west across the sate. I was one of the lucky recipients of the improved tone of understanding and cooperation that existed in Rosalia. I bought fully in, obviously.
From Rosalia, the dialogue will ride the wave further west to Lind. A lot of us are apprehensive that because of the remoteness of the venue, trail supporters will be in the minority and the cooperative evolution will be stunted. But I think that even if that's the case, it's okay, because I think it's a fair venue, and that the residents of the region need to be heard. Honestly, I am so interested in what will happen at this meeting that it's killing me that I can't be there.
From Lind, the wave of opportunity for discourse will travel across the Columbia and up the slopes of the gorge into Ellensburg. This will be the sole location that is conveniently accessed by anyone in western Washington who cares about being involved and active in crafting a solution. My efforts to somehow preach a style and tone of discourse as the public dialogue moves into Ellensburg are arrogant, misguided and flat-out wrong. This will be the opportunity that many have been patiently waiting for. I hope that the turnout is overwhelming, and that the support for the trail is passionate, and that yes, some emotions even boil over. Ted Blaszak reached out to me early this morning and gave me a gentle, vifrtual, slap in the face as he reminded me that this is the awesome political process that we are all so priveleged to enjoy.
The future of the eastern portion of the JWPT is not an eastern Washington issue and cannot be resolved at a regional level, despite the efforts of some. This is a statewide trail and therefore a statewide issue. The stakeholders are many and varied, and they are in every corner of the state and everywhere in between. The JWPT is a STATE treasure, and I am grateful for every resident and every elected official who appreciates its value and stands up in support of its preservation and development. There is no way that the trail can be saved if we are not all working together.
Sorry for my misstep and for any offense it created.