Olympia fine-tunes Neighborhood Pathways Program to connect streets, parks and trails

The OlympianFebruary 4, 2014 

Olympia is fine-tuning a program to help neighborhoods build new routes for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Launched in 2013, the Neighborhood Pathways Program has four projects in the works that would create paths to connect streets, parks and trails. In this neighborhood-driven program, residents identify and pitch potential projects to the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC), which then reviews and narrows the list.

Last year, the city received 19 preliminary applications. Some proposals didn’t make the cut because they were considered too costly or too large for a particular neighborhood.

Applicants had expressed a need for more guidance on which projects to submit. On Tuesday, the Olympia City Council voted unanimously to accept revisions to the program that will give staff more involvement in project recommendations and cost estimates.

The program sets aside $125,000 a year that’s divvied up among the projects. The money comes from a parks and recreation funding measure approved by voters in 2004.

As the program enters a second year, questions have been raised about issues such as maintenance and liability. Sophie Stimson, city planner, told the council Tuesday that neighborhoods are asked to maintain the projects for four years. There is no plan for maintenance after that.

Neighborhoods are also required to purchase liability insurance for projects that have no city supervision. Stimson said the cost of the insurance can be covered by the program grant.

The four projects currently in the works:

- The Puget Street NE pathway would connect Miller Avenue to Jasper Avenue. Details are being revised for this project, which is on hold until the spring. Trees have been trimmed and blackberries have been cleared in the area.

- The Woodard Avenue NW pathway would connect Rogers Street to West Bay Drive. The neighborhood has hired a contractor. So far, stormwater improvements have been made. The project will continue when the weather warms up, according to the city.

- The Scammell Avenue NW pathway would connect Milroy and Cushing streets. City staff is pursuing a pedestrian easement because the pathway would go through private property.

- The 16th Avenue SE pathway would connect that area to the Olympia Woodland Trail. Designs and discussions are still under way.

Applications for more projects will be sought this spring. The city is planning an informational open house March 5, with preliminary applications due May 1. BPAC will review proposals in the fall, with the council expected to approve projects in November.

Andy Hobbs: 360-704-6869 or ahobbs@theolympian.com

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