Lace up your walking shoes, pack up your troubles and smile, smile, smile, Kitsap outdoor enthusiasts. Construction of the long discussed, planned and oft-postponed Bainbridge Island portion of the Sound to Olympics Trail is at last underway.
Community members and representatives of the city gathered last Thursday for an official groundbreaking at the island-based end of the trail, in the grassy area at the northeast corner of Winslow Way and Olympic Drive, across from the police station.
This initial phase of the Sound to Olympics Trail project will provide a separated shared-use pathway along the Highway 305 Corridor from Winslow Way to High School Road.
The new pathway will connect to the pedestrian bridge across Ravine Creek. City officials said the project will encourage non-motorized transportation, provide accessibility for those with disabilities, improve drainage and safety features, incorporate native plantings with visual and acoustic buffers and promote all modes of non-motorized transportation and connectivity to branch trails.
This initial phase of the project will complete the “first mile” of the Sound to Olympics Trail and study potential branch trail connections.
“It’s a regional trail that’s being built in other parts of Kitsap County,” explained Mark Epstein, the engineering project manager. “This is our first step to join up with that regional trail.”
The start of the project was a long time coming, Epstein said. About four American presidents long, actually.
“The first talk about it was probably back when the first Non-motorized Transportation Plan was developed in 2001,” he said. “That’s when they first talked about trails and having a trail follow the highway.”
Construction — expected to last for the duration of the year — will result in periodic closures of one northbound lane of Highway 305.
There will also be closures at the existing trail and pedestrian bridge, said city spokeswoman Kellie Stickney.
“There will be one lane of traffic that is closed, during mostly the summer months,” she said.
“I think it’s also important for the public to realize that things are going to look different around here while this project is happening,” Stickney added.
“Part of doing this project will involve the removal of some trees. We are committed to also removing invasive species while we’re doing that and obviously we have a plan for replanting. But that’s part of what it takes to be able to do this kind of great trail project that provides so many amenities to so many people,” she said.
The trail, Stickney added, is about more than just a convenient walking path.
“It’s also about accessibility,” she said. “Some folks can walk [the existing] trail but not folks who are utilizing wheelchairs or other kinds of mobility devices. Additionally, you’re not just providing a better trail for pedestrians, you’re providing a safer option for bicyclists and, therefore, for motorists as well.”
The city will utilize the Nixle update service to keep community members informed of traffic impacts. Text “98110” to “888777” or visit www.nixle.com to sign up. In attendance at the groundbreaking were Mayor Val Tollefson, City Manager Doug Schulze, city engineering manager Chris Hammer and representatives from Kitsap Transit and the Non-Motorized Transportation Committee, among others.