Centennial Trail completion a cause for celebration

ARLINGTON — John Wynne is traveling all the way from Alaska to attend the grand opening planned Saturday of the most-northerly leg of the Centennial Trail in Snohomish County.

Considered the county’s largest park, the trail now is paved from the Skagit County line south about 30 miles through Arlington, Lake Stevens and Snohomish where railroad tracks were laid in the late 1800s.

Wynne, a former state legislator from Lake Stevens, now lives in Juneau. He counts his involvement in the original Pathfinders Task Force and the Snohomish-Arlington Trail Coalition as the most important effort of his life.

“I’ve done many things, but I’m most proud of the Centennial Trail,” Wynne said. “It will always be there for my nieces and nephews in Snohomish County.”

The first part of the trail officially opened in 1989, the state’s centennial year, but it had its beginnings earlier. The dedication, set for 10 a.m. Saturday just off Highway 9, is the culmination of 30 years of hard work by a lot of people, Wynne said.

“It’s a dream come true for all the citizens who made it what it is today,” he said.

Beth Hill of Marysville agreed. Rain or shine, she plans to attend the dedication today on her horse, a Tennessee walker.

Hill was one of the “Housewives from Hell,” so named by the late Willis Tucker when he was county executive. Hill and several other women showed up at each public meeting in which the trail was to be discussed.

“We were very insistent,” Hill said. “Anytime there was any progress on the trail, we would show up, say thank you and then mention, by the way, here’s what we need next.”

A longtime Boeing employee, Hill said the “housewives” title probably came from the group’s efforts to get public officials out to tour the old railroad grade, food included.

“We were the perfect hostesses, but we were persistent and consistent,” Hill said. “The trail shows what individuals can do when they get together.”

Chuck and Bea Randall of Arlington are past leaders of the Trail Coalition. The Randalls also plan to attend the ribbon-cutting today.

“We’re feeling our old age now and don’t use the trail like we used to, but we’re happy that a younger generation has taken on the leadership,” Bea Randall said. “The next step is completion of the Whitehorse Trail from Arlington to Darrington. From here on, though, there is very little money available.”

Wynne added that he hopes someday to see the Centennial Trail continue on to Monroe and then south to King County, where it can hook up with the Burke-Gilman Trail. For now, however, he’s very happy.

Snohomish County Parks director Tom Teigen said the ceremony today is big news in the world of trail users. It’s made possible in part by Kamezo and Mije Nakashima’s family, the original owners of the property, who lost the farm during World War II when the family was sent to a U.S. Japanese interment camp.

“We’ve done a lot of work on the Centennial Trail just in the past six years, from closing the gap south of Arlington and finishing the trail north of Arlington,” Teigen said. “We thank all the city, county, state and federal officials, along with the Trail Coalition and the user groups who made this possible.”

The northern trailhead was originally planned to open earlier this year, but the wet spring delayed the work.

“Then we had 80 days of no rain and got all the paving in,” Teigen said. “We have plenty of parking at the north trailhead. Now all the folks from Skagit can park there and ride south and spend money in our cities.”

Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427; gfiege@heraldnet.com.

If you go

The opening of the new north trailhead of the Centennial Trail is set for 10 a.m. Saturday at the Snohomish County Parks Nakashima Heritage Barn, 32328 Highway 9, north of Arlington.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the transfer of the Nakashima property to the county. The story has been corrected.

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