A planned extension of the Guemes Channel Trail, for pedestrians as well as bicyclists, between downtown and the state ferry terminal has broad community support, according to a just-released report on two recent visioning workshops.
The so-called Vision-to-Action report concludes that the community wants the city to focus on finishing the trails before attempting any economic activity on the piers along the way. A majority of the workshop attendees said the trail should follow the water’s edge (in the old railroad right-of-way) while being respectful of the natural habitat.
The report recommends the city continue to work with property owners along the Guemes Channel waterfront in acquiring property for a trail either via easements or outright purchases. The report also suggests the city conduct technical studies to evaluate stability of the bluff and make recommendations to reduce risks of slides.
This illustration shows the extension of the trail connecting to the Kiwanis Park. The former Shannon Point Seafood pier at the end of 7th Street is shown with a reduced footprint. By removing eastern and western extensions of the pier, over water coverage is reduced with enhances salmon habitat. A smaller pier would also have lower repair and maintenance costs.
The report was prepared by environmental engineering and consulting firm Maul Foster Alongi of Bellingham and funded in part by Center for Creative Land Recycling.
City Parks & Recreation Director Gary Robinson said, in an email to Anacortes Now that the city is already working, "One of those actions is that we have applied for an “Integrated Planning Grant” from the Department of Ecology to do some more work along the channel and specifically at what we call the Triton property but don’t know if we will get that grant. We are also working on improving our mitigation efforts on the existing sections of the Guemes Channel Trail through supplemental plantings."
The report outlines these short-term action items that the city should begin this year.
Obtain property access. The city should continue engagement with property owners along the waterfront to develop approaches that provide them with benefits, such as stormwater management improvements, that also allow access for construction of the trail. The preferred approach would be to acquire the minimal public interest in a property to support completion of the trail. If obtaining an easement is not feasible, and the private property owners express an interest to sell their property to the City, the City should conduct appropriate due diligence and carefully negotiate a purchase agreement that reflects risks and liabilities associated with the property.
Build Partnerships. During the Guemes Channel Waterfront project, the City has worked to build relationships with community members, private property owners along the future trail, the Port of Anacortes, the DOE, and the DNR, all of whom have a vested interest in the future of the Guemes Channel Waterfront.
Commission Public Art. Similar to the public art at Kiwanis Waterfront Park, the City should commission work by local artists to be installed along the existing trail and potential future extension to create more points of interest. Interpretative signage can also be designed and installed at places where the trail currently exists. Interpretive signs could provide opportunities to educate the public about the rich history and ecology of the area. They could also create visual and thematic connections between the Guemes Channel Trail, downtown, and the Tommy Thomson Trail. The City could partner with Anacortes High School to create ideas for and vote on these art and sign installations to continue the students’ involvement in this project.
Conduct Technical Studies Needed to Support Extension of the Trail. Design of the trail extension will require several technical studies to understand the physical conditions. This includes a geotechnical study to evaluate stability of the bluff and make recommendations to reduce risks of sloughing and slides. A cultural resource and natural resource study may also be needed to assess existing conditions and make recommendations to avoid, minimize, or mitigate potential impacts to protected resources.
Maintenance of the Trail to Enhance Beach-Forming Processes and Shoreline Stabilization. The City should continue ongoing trail maintenance activities that support natural habitat forming processes. The Vision-to-Action participants from Anacortes High School Green Club said that they would be eager to help with any near-term projects on the trail. The City should reach out to them for additional support for shoreline activities, such as planting native vegetation along the trail.