Work to begin on another 9.5 miles of Whitehorse Trail

ARLINGTON — Work continues on the scenic Whitehorse Trail between Arlington and Darrington.

The 27-mile route has been lauded as a key recreation feature to help the Stillaguamish Valley recover after the deadly 2014 Oso mudslide. The goal is to create a path for hikers, bicyclists and horseback riders that draws them to Arlington, Darrington and the smaller communities between.

Bridges along the trail have been repaired and washouts shored up. Work crews have beaten back brush to widen overgrown stretches. Design and engineering is under way to rebuild a mile of the trail destroyed by the mudslide.

Now, the county is ready to tackle another nine and a half miles thanks to millions of dollars in state and federal funds.

The plan is to clear and upgrade the trail starting west of the slide area heading toward the Cicero Pond Trailhead.

It’s a $4.24 million project. Earlier this month, the Snohomish County Council accepted a $2 million grant from the state Recreation and Conservation Office for the project.

The budget includes $1.1 million from the state Department of Transportation, $570,000 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and state matching dollars, according to county documents.

The rebuild would make the trail 12 feet wide and suitable for nonmotorized uses such as walking, biking or horseback riding. The surface would mostly be compacted gravel and crushed rock. Brush is to be cleared from the trail and signs installed.

The project is scheduled to start this month and continue until the end of 2018. A preliminary timeline suggests finalizing permits and environmental studies by the end of 2016, hiring contractors by June 2017 and starting construction by the end of July 2017. The county hopes to have construction complete in August 2018, according to the timeline.

The Whitehorse Trail once was a Burlington Northern Railway line. The county purchased it in 1993.

Six miles are officially open to the public heading west from Darrington toward Swede Heaven Road.

Other stretches of the trail are used by walkers and horseback riders, though they haven’t been updated yet by county crews and contractors.

There are 14 bridges along the trail that have been repaired with new railings and decking, thanks to private donations.

In Arlington, the Whitehorse Trail connects with the popular paved Centennial Trail, which stretches about 30 miles from the city of Snohomish to the Skagit County line.

Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; kbray@heraldnet.com.

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