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Foothills Trail clears major hurdle with Lower Burnett extension

Trails may not reach bridges for years

By Kevin Hanson

The Courier-Herald

By Kevin Hanson

The Courier-Herald

Progress might seem slow at times, but those powering the Foothills Trail effort recently cleared one major hurdle and have another in sight.

With a continuous stretch of pavement existing from Puyallup to South Prairie, trail backers have turned their attention to linking the Plateau communities of Buckley, Wilkeson and Carbonado. Following the abandoned Burlington Northern Railroad line, a pair of bridges were needed in the Lower Burnett region to keep the trail moving east of South Prairie toward Buckley.

The first bridge was installed two weeks ago, a span of about 150 feet that was settled onto abutments on either side of Spiketon Creek. A second bridge, more than twice as long, is already built and will eventually span South Prairie Creek and Lower Burnett Road.

“We’ve been trying to get these bridges for years,” Foothills Trail spokesman Buzz Grant said.

Grant explained that the second bridge is ready to go, but installation is on hold due to Mother Nature’s reproductive needs. Work around waterways is off-limits when salmon are spawning, meaning the second bridge likely won’t be hoisted into place until the spring.

Grant and his fellow trail booseters have lofty goals.

“Our dream is the mountain to the Sound,” he said, envisioning a time when people will be able to walk or ride a bicycle, from the Carbon River entrance to Mount Rainier National Park to a saltwater destination.

Trail fans depend largely upon governmental funding and realize money might be scarce for the immediate future.

“We’re going through some real tough times economically,” Grant said. “We know that.”

Still, trail boosters keep working.

Two weekends ago, a group gathered south of Buckley to clear an existing path and place rocks in some of the muddier areas heading toward South Prairie.

Such work goes on while a real trail is probably a couple of years away, at least.

“We probably won’t be getting any more paving for two or three years,” Grant said. He admits this creates a situation where new bridges are being installed in “the middle of nowhere,” but is quick to point out that the timing is not unusual.

“Bridges are usually put in three to five years before the trails that connect them,” Grant said.

There are still gaps in the planned stretch of trail between South Prairie and Buckley and Pierce County authorities are negotiating with property owners, Grant said. Until deals can be reached, those sections are off-limits to the general public.

Reach Kevin Hanson at khanson@courierherald.com or 360-802-8205.

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