Events celebrate progress on Centennial Trail

SNOHOMISH — The lively past and promising future of the Centennial Trail are set to receive their due this morning with two separate events.

A signing ceremony for Snohomish County’s purchase agreement for nearly 12 miles of rail corridor is scheduled at 9 a.m. in Snohomish. The new segment would extend the trail south to Woodinville.

An hour later, government leaders, cyclists and others plan to gather about five miles north at the trail head in Machias. There, they’ll unveil new program called PASTforward that promotes the Centennial Trail through interpretive signs and a website.

“It’s really an exciting opportunity,” county parks director Tom Teigen said of the trail addition. “This is going to be rails and trail.”

Freight trains use the Woodinville-Snohomish leg now. New, parallel recreation trails likely will take a while to build out, with design work alone expected to last at least a couple of years, Teigen said.

Snohomish County already considers the Centennial Trail its largest park. As is, it gives bikers, walkers and horse-back riders a largely unobstructed ribbon of asphalt that travels 29 miles from the Skagit County line to downtown Snohomish.

Once it reaches Woodinville, the Centennial Trail would connect to King County’s extensive trail system, which leads to Ballard, Lake Sammamish and points south.

Last year, the County Council authorized $5 million in conservation futures grants to buy the Snohomish-to-Woodinville addition. Conservation futures money is collected from property taxes to preserve open space and parks. The real estate transaction likely won’t be finalized until this spring.

The railway section in Snohomish County is among the last pieces of old rail line the Port of Seattle still owns from its 2009 purchase of the East Side Rail Corridor. The Port paid Burlington Northern Santa Fe $81 million for 42 miles of track and right of way. The original sale included the line from Snohomish south to Renton, with a spur to Redmond.

The East Side Rail Corridor started in the 1880s, but had dwindled to minimal freight use by the time BNSF sold it.

PASTforward highlights the trail’s landmarks, past and present. It includes signs at trail heads, in Machias and elsewhere, plus a new website, www.centennialtrail.com.

To carry out the work, the county used a $99,000 grant awarded by Washington’s Department of Archeology and Historic Preservation.

Separately, the county is using a graphics-wrapped Smart car to promote the Centennial Trail and its history. The plan is to park the car at high-profile sites and festivals.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; nhaglund@heraldnet.com.

Events today

9 to 9:45 a.m. —Signing ceremony near the south end of the Centennial Trail, 504 4th St., Snohomish.

10 to 11 a.m. — PASTforward program unveiling, Machias Trailhead, 1624 Virginia St., Snohomish.

More info: http://on.fb.me/1khpuog, www.centennialtrail.com or call 425-388-3186.

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