Thursday, November 12, 2015

A JWPT Must Read


In related news, I screwed something up pretty good in my previous post and have attempted to make amends via an edited-in comment at the end.  I would be grateful if you would take the time to go back and check it out.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

JWPT Public Meeting In Rosalia

The first of three public meetings regarding the future of the John Wayne Pioneer Trail occurred today in Rosalia.  There was no way I was going to miss it.

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)
After a foggy drive out on Hwy 195, we were gifted with a clear, crisp day in Rosalia.  The trail was its awesome self, as usual.

I don't want to get all goofy sentimental here, but at the same time, I am somewhat powerless over my affection for this trail.  The engineer in me simply cannot look at a cut like this without envisioning the human labor and drama that went into creating it, in the early 1900's, when methods and machinery were so primitive, relatively speaking, to those of today.

And then there's the geologic value of the trail.  I know very little about the subject, but even so, I can appreciate the uniqueness and rarity of what the trail has to offer.  It doesn't take a total idiot, in other words.  And when I'm with Chip, who has substantial expertise in this field, it's a major field trip and I'm just drinking out of the fire hose.

The three of us had a really interesting sub-conversation at one point during one of our many stops about emerging transportation technologies and how they might influence the value and future utilization of the trail.  Hard to predict, for damn sure, but one thing we all agreed upon is that the corridor ought to be preserved, if for no other reason than the sake of these potentialities.  Creation from scratch of such a corridor would take tremendous political will and effort, and if we can't even keep the existing one intact, I'm at a loss as to how it could ever be possible to create a new one.

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.

We finished up our ride just after 11:00 and headed to the coffee shop in Rosalia, where Rich treated us all to hot chocolates.  It was the right drink, at the right moment, for all of us.  Apprehension over how the meeting would go did not need a caffeine injection.

On to the meat of this post then, the meeting:

Let me start out by apologizing for the dog-krap-quality photo.  You would think that by this time, I would have a bit of a handle on how to take a reasonable photo with my generations-old iPhone 4s.  Apparently not, then.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Saturday, November 7, 2015


From Ted Baszak, of the Tekoa Trail and Trestle Association, who is pouring every ounce of his personal energy into this issue, and who has become a major voice in the dialogue.  WORD . . .

Here's an OPED piece I wrote this week, it's very current to where we are at and tells the whole story. Please share it or get it on whatever blog or other media sources you can, thanks, Save The Trail!!

What will Representative Joe Schmick now do with Washington’s only state wide trail? Will he close it forever? Will he repair it for all? Or will he simply do nothing?

By Ted Blaszak, member of the Tekoa City Council and President of the Tekoa Trail and Trestle Association on Face book at the Tekoa Trail & Trestle Association

“Schmick is noncommittal about whether he will try again to close the trail. “We’ll hear from everyone at the meetings,” Capital Press Nov 4th 2015.
During the final budget conferences of the 2015 legislative session, behind closed doors, Representative Schmick (9th Colfax) placed into the capitol budget a proviso that took 135 miles of the John Wayne Trail, 6,000 acres of park land, and gave it away, at no cost, to 200 adjacent property owners. It was a land grab done without any public announcement or input.

When asked later why he made such a definitive move as to close the state wide trail forever in the shadows of secrecy rather than the openness of democracy, he said he did not want to waste his fellow legislators’ time by having a hearing for such a trivial matter. And when asked why he did not bother to inform his own constituents, of which many are trail users, he said that we could go look it up on line if we wanted to. You may find it on line if you read the Capitol Budget very carefully, it is in section 3121(3) on page 118 of the 280 page document.

It is the fundamental basic duty of any legislator to both inform and listen their constituents; all of them not just a particular group of supporters. They are to be our ears and voice in Olympia. Rep. Schmick has failed to fulfil this basic duty of his office, but there may still be time to repair the damage. 
Despite his best efforts to decimate the trail, Rep. Schmick met a road block, in the form of a simple typo. The proviso incorrectly named the points of the trail to be closed, thus nullifying the law enacted when the budget passed. For now, the trail remains open.

If you have never visited the John Wayne Trail, please do, you’ll enjoy it. It is the largest rail to trail conversion in the nation, one of only two cross state trails in America, it’s over 280 miles long. Starting just south east of Seattle, you can bike, ride a horse, or hike all the way to the Idaho border on an isolated path shut to motorized vehicles. It begins in thick wood lands rich with lakes and rivers, then through the dramatic and harsh terrain of the scab lands, and ends in some of the most peaceful pastoral settings our state has to offer. Every mile is solemnly tranquil and offers dramatic vistas.

It is used by thousands annually, including horse riders, hikers, cross country bicyclists, the Boy Scouts of America, The John Wayne Pioneer Trail Riders, and many more.

It is also one of the very few places where you can see the scab lands, a terrain so rare geologically it exist only by the John Wayne Trail and on the planet Mars. Young Washington geologists travel to the trail every year for their training. And rich with the cultural heritage of our state. Just this past weekend the Ralston Grange restored an old rail way station that is on the trail.

Most importantly to me, it ends in my small town of Tekoa WA (pop. 843). You pass a large sign as you enter Tekoa “Welcome to the End of the John Wayne Trail”. It’s important to our identity and our economy. Rep. Schmick must have past that sign on his way to be in our town parade this July.
It’s hard for a small town to stand up to a powerful state legislator but that’s what we did.

We learned about this tragedy in September. While attending the Palouse Empire Fair, where my daughter was showing her 4H sheep “Spot”, I stopped by Rep. Schmick’s booth and asked him if he got the trestle cookies my wife Debra baked and mailed him. I wanted to thank him for his support for our efforts to get funding for the Tekoa Trestle. He said he would support that end of the trail, but planned to reintroduce legislation to close the trail from the Columbia River to Malden. This of course was quite shocking news. Until this moment that information was known only to a handful of people.

Two days later, and after our Mayor John Jaeger spoke with Rep. Schmick, our city council passed a resolution asking that the trail be kept open and better funded instead. Since then there has been something of an uproar in the Palouse. Lots of news articles, emergency town meetings, and a supporting resolution from the City of Spokane.

In all fairness, during my conversation with Rep. Schmick, he made some very good points regarding his motivations for closing the trail. Adjacent land owners have had to endure some real problems. For example, the State has neglected fence lines, noxious weed control, and have recently imposed upon farmers a fee for using the trail to transport equipment.

Recently we met with Rep. Schmick and he agreed to hold with the Tekoa Trail and Trestle Association three meetings along the trail to solicit public comment. The meetings will all take place in November so that at their conclusion there is time available for Rep. Schmick to introduce legislation for the 2016 session to address the needs of the trail.

Public Comment Meetings for the John Wayne Trail

Rosalia Tuesday November 10th 12pm 
Community Center (7th St. and Whitman Ave.)

Lind Monday November 16th 12pm 
Union Elevator Conference Room (201 S street)

Ellensburg Monday November 23rd 6pm 
Hal Holmes Center (209 N Ruby St.)

Those unable to attend may email in their concerns to

At these meeting the TTTA will be advocating for 11 key points as the basis for a bill to solve the problems of the John Wayne trail for landowners and trail users alike:
1. improve spraying for noxious weeds
2. reinstate ranger service 
3. repair the cow creek trestle 
4. remove permit requirements for recreationalists 
5. remove fees for farmers moving equipment on the trail
6. restore the Tekoa trestle 
7. start a citizen litter patrol “adopt the trail program”
8. repair the Columbia River Crossing
9. improve rock slide removal and gravel grading
10. proper fences installed and maintained
11. additional trail heads, water stations and bathrooms installed

We hope that at the conclusion of these meetings Rep Schmcik will not introduce legislation to close the trail but will instead seek the sufficient funding necessary to repair it and protect land owners.

To close the trail would be a tragic permanent loss to our state and our small town. To do nothing at all will only exasperate the sufferings of adjacent landowners. The best path forward is to repair the trail.

There are many who will object to the expenditure of any money spent on such projects. I ask they not allow their well-placed conservative values to relegate Eastern WA to second class citizenry. West of the Columbia River the trail is in pristine condition, trail heads, weeds sprayed, maintained fences, finished trestles and ranger patrols. There are no complaints from nearby landowners there. It is only here in Eastern WA that the trail needs to be refurbished. We seek no new taxes but the same type of support for our end of the state wide trail.
The future of our state’s trail is now in the hands of one man. What will our Representive do? I don’t have any idea. But I wish our town was not so dependent upon the good will of one man who has not demonstrated a history of support for the trail.

If you are a Washington citizen in support of our trail please come to our meetings, we need you. If you are a city councilor please help us by passing a similar resolution to Tekoa and Spokane’s. And if you are member of the Washington State legislature please do whatever you can to help us save the trail.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Tuesday Next

From the Tekoa Trail and Trestle Association FB Page:

The Tekoa Trail and Trestle Association has been in conversations with Representative Schmick and together we have found a possible path to a solution.

Three public meetings have been scheduled for the month of November.

These meetings will be listening conversations along the trail scheduled to conclude before the deadline for legislators to submit a proposed bill for the next legislative session.

Rep. Schmick has said he will consider introducing a bill at the end of these meetings.

Tuesday November 10th 12pm Rosalia, Community Center (7th St. and Whitman Ave.)
Monday November 16th 12pm Lind, Union Elevator Conference room (201 S street)
Monday November 23rd 6pm Ellensburg, Hal Holmes Center (209 N Ruby St.)

Those not able to attend may email comments to:


At this point in time I am heavily invested in this issue and here's what I have to say:

The tactic of scheduling midday meetings is so advantageous to Schmick and his merry band.  This meeting time characterizes the issue, and its resolution, as a purely rural topic, which it is not.  An evening meeting schedule would facilitate greater participation from Spokane and other larger population centers who have a legitimate interest and right to participate in this dialogue.

It's not possible for me, as a regular concerned citizen who wants to engage in this political process, to "get away" from my job in the Spokane Valley and drive out to Rosalia in the middle of the day, and attend a noon meeting of whatever length and then drive back to my job in the Spokane Valley, without just calling it a day.  If I wasn't already so desensitized to the insulting tactics of Schmick and Dye, I would be super pissed, but this is what I have come to expect in the form of cooperation/collaboration from this group, which essentially, is nil.

You do what you have to do, and I have decided to trade a vacation day that I'd scheduled a long time ago around the Christmas holiday to spend time with my family, for a vacation day this next Tuesday.

Vacation days are precious in my world, and I'm determined to make this one count.

I am so totally interested in participating in a discussion about how to make the trail work for both the adjacent landowners and the users, but I am not sensing any such sentiment from either the words or actions of the Schmick group.  Super discouraging.

Trust is the missing component.  If it were in place, this whole deal would not be that hard to get through.  But without it, it's almost impossible.

Stay tuned.  Or better yet, get involved.

Here's what's at stake: