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Blazing the trail-city engineers stake Elliot Lake

Spring morning at the hidden pond
Spring morning at the hidden pond

Kennewick city engineers started field work this week for a proposed pedestrian and bicycle trail along Elliot lake and anticipate construction to begin by spring.

Heath Mellotte, design service manager, says the project is in the preliminary stage.

“We’re still working on the details, but we want to give everybody a heads up that we’re starting to plan this putting stakes out there and don’t want to catch anyone off guard,” Mellotte said.

The proposed trail is a joint project of Kennewick Parks & Recreation and Public Works departments. Currently estimated to span across about one-third mile, the trail would connect East 45th Avenue to Eastlake Drive with an eight to 10-foot-wide paved pathway meandering across the ravine on the south side of Elliot Lake. The east side of the trail would include an access road to a sewer main at the bottom of the ravine.

“That’s the whole driver of the project,” Mellotte said. “The sewer department hasn’t had access since the line was built and (the sewer line) is getting a lot of infiltration. There’s groundwater in that running stream that will get into the sewer.”

The sewer access will be a 10-foot-wide gravel road which city vehicles will enter from the southern end of Eastlake Drive, says Travis Hunt, city engineer. Hunt and Mellotte say the design doesn’t prevent trail users from using the sewer access road.

“The gravel path doesn’t lead anywhere. It just stops at one of the manholes,” Hunt says. “If someone rode their bike or walked out there they’d have to turn around and come back.”

Mellotte says a bollard or other obstructions could be added to block public access to the access road.

“It’s mainly for sewer access, but I wouldn’t see us prohibiting people from getting on it because you can cross through the sagebrush and get on it either way.”

The trail would be open during daylight hours only. The current design does not include electrical lighting, and other than city vehicles, motorized vehicles would be prohibited.

“We don’t want any dirt bikes or quads racing around out there,” Mellotte says.

The proposal does not restrict users from other parts of the lake or surrounding areas.

“There are no guarantees, but we’re hoping people will stay on the trail,” Mellotte says.

Parking lots for trail users is among the details still to be worked out. The city owns a right of way parcel near the westside entrance of the trail on West 45th Avenue Mellotte says could be used as a parking lot. There are no plans to provide parking on the east entrance off Eastlake or East 45th Avenue.

“I’m not sure if we’re going to accommodate parking there or not,” Mellotte says.

Bumps in the road
Other issues yet to be addressed include police and fire protection, if dogs and horses will be allowed on the trail, and whether trash receptacles and dog waste stations will be provided.

“We haven’t got that far yet, but I’m assuming our parks department will put trash receptacles and dog waste stations right along the entrance of each side was well as a bench or two down there.”

Both Mellotte and Hunt couldn’t provide information if discussions have taken place in regards to potential vandalism, trespassing, residential burglary, drug activity or other illegal activities such as assault, illegal entry and other potential risks to residents and trail users.

As part of the review process, Mellotte says other city departments will have the opportunity to weigh in before the plan is finalized.

“It will run through all our internal depts for comment.”

Outside agencies will also evaluate the final proposal, including Washington state Fish and Wildlife, which will review the city’s State Environmental Policy Act checklist.

“We’re drawing up our SEPA checklist with a site plan on it. We’ll route it through our planning department and from there they send it to Fish and Wildlife, the Army Corps of Engineers, Kennewick Irrigation District, which owns Elliot Lake, and other environmental agencies for comment.”

The agencies’ comments may include conditions, which the planning department will need to meet in its design. Mellotte says those conditions will eventually determine the final cost estimate of the project.

The road ahead
The trail design is scheduled to be completed next month, followed by soliciting bids from contractors in December. If the city receives bids within budget, construction could start in spring 2019.

“If the price comes in good we’ll move forward,” Mellotte says, “but if not, we’ll have to go back to the drawing board.”

Depending on interest among residents in the area, Mellotte says the park and recreation department may schedule an open house where residents could review the final proposed site map of the trail and get their questions answered and concerns addressed.

Questions and concerns and additional information can be directed to Donald Wieber, parks project coordinator, at 585-4295.

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