Olympia lauds Neighborhood Pathway Program, announces new projects for 2015

The Neighborhood Pathways Program was recognized Tuesday at the Olympia City Council meeting after the recent completion of a new path for pedestrians on the westside.

The program was launched in 2013 as a way to create more options for walkers and bicyclists by building pathways that connect parks, streets and trails.

At Tuesday’s meeting, city staff announced the program’s first completed project, the Woodard Avenue Pathway, which connects Rogers Street with West Bay Drive in west Olympia. The pathway replaces a previously overgrown segment of land with a newly landscaped path complete with switchbacks, rocks and places for people to rest. The collaboration involved neighborhood residents, city staff and private contractors.

"It’s beautiful and it’s already being widely used," said Erica Guttman on behalf of the Northwest Olympia Neighborhood Association. "It’s a really critical connection."

Two pathway projects have been approved for 2015. The Wildwood and Governor Stevens neighborhood associations are seeking a Moore Street Pathway to connect with Farrell Avenue in southeast Olympia. The second project was submitted by the Southwest Olympia Neighborhood Association, which asked for improvements to the current Decatur Street Pathway that connects to Caton Way. That proposal seeks landscaping and lighting improvements, according to Michelle Swanson, senior program specialist for the city.

The city has budgeted $290,000 total for the two projects next year, with $149,000 for the Moore Street Pathway, $120,000 for the Decatur Street Pathway, and $21,000 leftover, Swanson said.

"There are enough funds in the program for projects to move forward," Swanson told the council Tuesday, and said the next steps include design details and determining the type of work to be performed. "We are working hard to help neighborhoods help themselves."

The city will begin soliciting requests for the next batch of projects starting in March. Neighborhoods have the option to seek grants and do the work themselves, or collaborate with the city and private contractors. Neighborhoods must also buy liability insurance for their projects.

Several council members praised the program, and particularly the Woodard Avenue Pathway, for setting an example of true community collaboration.

"You set the bar pretty high," Councilwoman Cheryl Selby said of the Northwest Olympia Neighborhood Association, commenting on the "blood, sweat and tears" it took for the project to reach fruition. "It’s just a beautiful story of collective impact."