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Trail Connection Between Perry and East Central Neighborhoods and Downtown Caught up in Controversy

The City of Spokane unveiled plans to renovate and expand the rustic Ben Burr Trail that runs between the East Central and South Perry neighborhoods at a public meeting last month. With $1.7 million in federal transportation funds in hand, and a history of interest from the neighborhood in improving and connecting the trail (the neighborhood plan calls for connecting the trail to downtown), the city was prepared to move forward with the project as early as 2014 before being confronted by local residents with serious concerns.

The project would include paving and widening the existing Ben Burr Trail that runs from Liberty Park up near 11th Ave. as well as connecting it to the Centennial Trail near the University District and to the city’s bike route network on Third Ave. The expanded trail would run under I-90 on the Perry Street underpass to make those connections.

Neighbors’ concerns largely center around the proposal’s call for turning the existing 1 mile long, primitive gravel trail into a 10-12’ wide paved path that would change the wild character of the existing trail. Proponents of the project make the case that it would be a tremendous asset to walkers, joggers ,runners, cyclists and residents of the adjacent neighborhoods who currently have few safe routes for commuting downtown.

While the federal funds come with certain stipulations that might not be transferable to a scaled back version of the project that local residents might support, citizens who would like to see some version of the proposed Ben Burr Trail project move forward should  urge the city to look at possible compromise solutions that would fit within the funding parameters. Comments on the project can be e-mailed to dbuller@spokanecity.org. The project will also be discussed at an upcoming East Central Neighborhood Council meeting.

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