Good news for John Wayne Pioneer Trail fans: ALL TUNNELS ARE OPEN
KITTITAS COUNTY - Patrons and supporters of the John Wayne Pioneer Trail celebrated with a modicum of good cheer last week when it was announced - with a small wrinkle - all five tunnels on the trail are open for the first time since 2009.
"We are excited' said Cynthia Welti, Executive Director for Mountains to Sound Greenway.
As for "the wrinkle" Welti said, "State Parks is asking those who pass through the tunnels at Thorp to sign a liability waiver available at tunnel entrances. Why? Although
the tunnels aren't repaired yet, people have been using them. "Actually, the No Trespassing and Closed signs posted at tunnel entrances have been vandalized regularly. One of them ended up in the river. So the liability' waiver seemed to be the best option.
"We're working with the legislature to see if funding left over from the tunnel repair project in Easton can be reallocated to repair the two tunnels in Thorp."
Virginia Painter, Public Relations Director for Washington State Parks, had this to say about funding:
"We completed work on two Easton tunnels, Numbers 48 and 49, and had about $417,000 left over.
"We'll be asking for permission to shift those funds to get started on the two tunnels in Thorp, Numbers 46 and 47. We believe there's a good possibility our request will be approved.
"Although we've not yet scoped the size of the projects in terms of repairs required, if approved we could use the money to get started very soon."
It was last year the state advertised a contract for work on the two tunnels between Hyak and Easton. Last month Mountains to Sound Greenway announced those were
repaired and opened for use by the public.
The longest tunnel of the five at Snoqualmie Pass was repaired and reopened in 2011.
As Welti points out, with all five tunnels open the continuity of the 145-mile John Wayne Pioneer Trail is restored and the trail that brings hikers, bikers, horseback riders and wagon drivers from North Bend eastward all the way to the Columbia River - is once again
working its magic for outdoor recreationists and the rural economies they support.
"Mountains to Sound Greenway strongly supports efforts to completely repair the Thorp tunnels," Velti said, "and will encourage Washington State Parks and the Washington State Legislature to fully fund this magnificent recreation facility in our state."