The proposal for a Zylstra Lake trail was removed from San Juan County’s Six-Year Transportation Improvement Plan, with a county council vote after a second day of testimony Nov. 27 in a continued public hearing. The controversial trail was removed from both the six-year plan and the annual transportation construction plan.
“We haven’t got this right yet,” council member Christine Minney observed.
The hearing was continued after an overflow crowd spoke overwhelmingly in opposition to the plan at a Nov. 7 hearing. (See “Multimodal trail in San Juan Valley opposed by farmers,” Salish Current, Nov. 9, 2023.)
Public Works Director Colin Huntemer advised the council that the $5.2 million congressional earmark from Rep. Rick Larsen is still available for a project that must be ready to begin construction by September 2026.
Huntemer showed the council the potential trail corridors maps from the county’s Recreation, Open Space and Stewardship Plan, adopted in November 2022 as a general idea using corridors for connecting people and popular sites. Maps for Orcas and Lopez islands are included.
Specific details of any trail alignment would need to be engineered within the broad swaths showing movement of people. The maps could be used a starting place for further community discussion about the federal funding opportunity, he noted.
Council member Cindy Wolf said she is in favor of the trails concept, however not as much for tourists, but for residents both now and 50 years from now. She expressed concern about developing trails on agricultural land and said she would be opposed to using eminent domain to get required easements for a community project.
Council member Jane Fuller expressed the need for a deeper consultation and community conversation to determine if there is a trail project that can be supported by the community. Funds from the federal earmark cannot be spent for this planning phase but would come from the County.
Minney said she wanted to assure San Juan Valley residents, “I will not send a trail down San Juan Valley Road.”
— Reported by Nancy DeVaux