County to celebrate expansion of Centennial Trail

SNOHOMISH — Snohomish County’s political leaders see a promising road ahead after completing the purchase of a 12-mile extension of the Centennial Trail.

To mark the milestone, they’ve planned a celebration at the Hal Moe Pool in Snohomish at 10 a.m. Saturday.

“I’ve been waiting for this for years,” Snohomish Mayor Karen Guzak said. “It’s going to be great for walkers, for strollers and for folks on bicycles.”

County leaders had been in talks to buy the property since 2009, when the Port of Seattle finalized its acquisition of the Eastside Rail Corridor between Renton and Snohomish.

As other local governments bought up more southerly portions of the former BNSF Railway tracks, Snohomish County also appeared to be closing in on an agreement. Talks got put on pause last year, leaving the Snohomish County segment the last piece in port ownership.

Earlier this year, Executive Dave Somers announced that negotiations had resumed. The $3.5 million purchase closed March 25.

“This new extension of the Centennial Trail is one of the most exciting additions to Snohomish County’s trail network,” Somers said. “Soon it will be possible to bike or hike across the entire county, from the northern edge to the southern tip. Snohomish County is already well-known for some of the most beautiful recreation opportunities in the country, and we look forward to seeing this new addition add even more luster to our reputation.”

The addition will link to the existing Centennial Trail, which runs 30 miles between Snohomish and the Skagit County line. Once built out, the southern addition would connect to King County’s Burke-Gilman and Sammamish River trails.

“In short, this 12-mile connection will be huge for knitting together a regional trail network,” said Blake Trask, senior policy director for Cascade Bicycle Club, a statewide bicycle advocacy group. “With this trail’s completion in the coming years, folks will be able to travel on trails exclusively from Bellevue or Ballard, up to Woodinville and then onto the Centennial Trail. They’ll then be able to connect to the Whitehorse Trail in Arlington and go another 27 miles to the foot of the Glacier Peak Wilderness in Darrington.”

Don’t expect to bike, walk or ride horses through the newly acquired corridor just yet.

County planners still are designing the southern portion of the Centennial Trail. Building it out is likely to take many years and “easily $23 million to $25 million,” parks director Tom Teigen said.

By the end of this year, parks staff hope to have the design about 30 percent complete, Teigen said. That should give them a clearer picture of construction costs and put the county in a better position to compete for grants.

Freight trains still use the tracks. That isn’t expected to change anytime soon.

The county’s plan, all along, has been to preserve the rail line and build a parallel recreation trail of approximately 12 feet wide, Teigen said.

Local civic leaders have long entertained the idea of a tourist train that would run between Woodinville’s wineries and the antique district of downtown Snohomish. They’ve discussed the possibility of some day running commuter trains on the line.

The corridor starts at a trestle over the Snohomish River and continues south to the Brightwater treatment plant in Maltby. It measures about 100 feet in most areas, Teigen said. It is narrower in some spots but reaches 200 feet wide in others.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465;

If you go

What: Snohomish County celebrates the purchase of a rail corridor for future expansion of the Centennial Trail

When: 10 a.m. Saturday

Where: Hal Moe Pool, 403 3rd St., Snohomish

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