Whidbey Islanders continue to push for island-long trail

Whidbey Islanders push for the completion of the Whidbey Isle or bridge-to-boat trail.

Island County Public Works is taking input for the transportation element of the 2025 comprehensive plan update, and some Whidbey Islanders are pushing for completion of the Whidbey Isle or bridge-to-boat trail, an island-long non-motorized trail reaching from the Deception Pass Bridge to the Clinton-Mukilteo Ferry.

The trail was first adopted in 2009 and has been constructed in small, scattered pieces. While it remains on the county’s non-motorized trail plan, transportation improvement plan and comprehensive plan, these plans have so many items that some of them get reprioritized as other issues take precedence in the minds of both the commissioners and the public, said Commissioner Melanie Bacon.

The next piece of the trail on the docket stretches from the Clinton ferry to Ken’s Korner Shopping Plaza.

For Whidbey Islander Tim Economu, the trail remains a high priority. He’s starting a nonprofit organization to push for the trail and general healthy, green living on the island.

“I’ll never be a bureaucrat, never sit at the desk and do that,” he said, “but I can help them.”

The trail would provide a safe alternative to driving, he said. It would benefit regular commuters and bolster health and welfare on the island. Everyone could use the trail for exercise or leisure, and it would be suitable for those strolling children or using wheelchairs. Further, such a large trail system would come to the attention of biking, walking and hiking clubs and make the island a destination for those communities.

As each year goes by, the plan gets more expensive, he said, but he understands the cause for the delays.

“Look at the needs of the community,” he said. “We have homeless needs. We have health requirements, and there’s just a lot going on.”

According to Bacon, the other priorities are a bigger hold-up than funding small sections of the trail at different times. Implementing the entire trail at once would be “impossibly” expensive, she said.

The bigger, immediate issue is identifying which pieces of the trail are highest priority and implementing a plan in phases. While parts of this planning process have been completed, it moves around on the county’s list of priorities.

For those interested in pushing for the trail, there are several angles of attack.

Members of the public should bring their “ideas, enthusiasm and support” to the board through public comments during the regular Tuesday meetings, Bacon said. They should include how they would use the trail and which section should be completed soonest.

People can also comment at planning commission meetings and contact public works directly as staff begin the transportation element of the 2025 comprehensive plan update. Also, pieces of the bridge-to-boat trail will likely become imbedded into “Safe Streets for All,” a project of the Island Regional Transportation Planning Organization, which also takes public comment.

“Once completed, (the trail) will be one of the greatest economic, safety and recreational assets of our county,” Bacon said.

Economu’s been on the island since 1977. Having traveled all over the country, he finds Whidbey Island the most beautiful. It’s a special place, he said, and the trail is a matter of time.

“It’s not a matter of land, we just really need the political will and the money and the time to do it,” he said.