MARYSVILLE — More than 100 people crowded Marysville’s Qwuloolt Waterfront Trail after an official ribbon-cutting Saturday morning.
They ambled, strolled and, at least a few, scooted along the new trail, taking in the sprawling floodplain scenery. The crowd’s easy pace and the canary grass waving in the wind was a breathless retort to cars and truck rushing along I-5 in the distance.
The trail instantly expanded the city’s waterfront from a mere 900 feet at Ebey Waterfront Park to nearly two miles along Ebey Slough’s lazy curves. Saturday’s grand opening was nearly two decades in the making.
At the time, the Tulalip Tribes was starting work on turning dairy land along Ebey Slough back into an estuary. From early on, city officials envisioned a waterfront walkway that tied into the restoration project, said Gloria wHirashima, the city of Marysville’s chief administrative officer.
“This trail always felt like it could be a game changer for Marysville” and people’s perception of the city, she said.
It sprang up as a lumber town dependent on the adjacent waterway for moving logs to sawmills, Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring said.
But the lumber industry moved away from Marysville and cars and trucks replaced log rafts and steamboats. Weathered pilings for tying up logs headed for mills still dot stretches of Ebey Slough.
Before Saturday, most people here probably didn’t realize the city has a waterfront, Hirashima said.
The trail will be an unqualified success when it’s crowded with people on a summer day, she said.
The city started work on the project about 10 years ago, with parts constructed piecemeal as adjacent land was developed. Saturday’s ribbon-cutting followed completion of the first concentrated construction phase.
The rest of the trail, including a section connecting Ebey Waterfront Park, should be completed in the next two years, barring any surprises, said Jim Ballew, Marysville’s parks and recreation director.
The city has budgeted $3 million for the project and asked the state for another $1 million to help pay for the final construction.
Before the ribbon cutting, Nehring told the crowd, “your energy and excitement lets us know this is money well spent.”
Retired Boeing worker Paul Miller joined the crowd strolling along the 12-foot-wide paved trail atop the levee protecting the city’s wastewater treatment facility from Ebey Slough.
The levee was added as part of restoring Qwuloolt Estuary into a saltwater marsh that is now home to waterfowl and providing salmon access to Allen and Jones creeks.
“I wanted to come see what the city is doing to improve the Marysville experience,” he said.
“They’re doing it,” he said. “Of course, it takes time, money and people.”
The trail is open to walkers, cyclists and dogs, but not horses.
The key milestone was the Tulalip Tribes’ 20-year project to restore the estuary to a saltwater marsh by breaching the dike that separated it from Ebey Slough.
That breach took place in August 2015, after the Tulalips, working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, built up a levee to protect the city’s wastewater treatment plant.
The estuary has transformed into a saltwater marsh, home to waterfowl and providing salmon access to Allen and Jones creeks.
Qwuloolt means “marsh” in Lushootseed, part of the Salish language spoken by the Tulalips and other Northwest tribes.
Work on the city’s trail got underway shortly after the breach, although it was delayed by budget wrangling in Olympia.
Qwuloolt Waterfront Trail gives 12-year-old Ellie Sarr and her younger sister and brother plenty of new places to explore.
“We probably will be here a lot this summer,” she said as the trio made their way down the trail.