Planning discussed for North Sound to Olympics Trail

Kitsap County Public Works held an open house Wednesday at the Village Green Community Center in Kingston to discuss trail planning with the public for the North Sound to Olympics Trail.

The STO Trail is envisioned as a multi-use path “spine” connecting North Kitsap to a variety of “local connector” paths and trails linking communities, parks and open spaces. The meeting was a continuation of efforts to advance the NSTO Trail feasibility analysis, according to Public Works.

In 2011, NK completed an extensive grassroots process to identify how to link its communities. The effort resulted in the “String of Pearls” plan, which was adopted by the county commissioners and incorporated into its Non-Motorized Facility Plan.

“The String of Pearls Trails plan is envisioned as a way of enriching all of Kitsap County” by connecting communities with “a myriad of community, regional, land and water trails,” the plan states. “These trails will enhance the quality of life for residents by connecting people with natural areas and creating options for active lifestyles.”

It continues: “An integrated trail system will enhance the local economy with options for exercise, transportation, eco-tourism and enjoyment of beautiful and natural settings. The trails will become a safe, pleasant, healthy and frequent choice for people of all ages, interests and abilities. The trails we plan and build today will shape a legacy for future generations.”

The plan further states: “String of Pearls has prioritized a single spine of paved bike routing combining the STO Trail and on-road community connectors bike route…supports a wider network of unpaved trails which can be built by volunteers at low cost, some of which will connect to the spine. (North Kitsap Trails Associaton’s) top priority is to obtain access through the 8,000 acres of (Rayonier) land. Without access to this land, there will be very few trails in North Kitsap.”

Since the “String of Pearls,” portions of the NSTO between Kingston and Port Gamble have been further advanced. In 2015, the “Divide Block” feasibility study was completed to identify the STO alignment between Miller Bay and Port Gamble roads. In 2018, the “Port Gamble Trail” feasibility study was completed to identify the STO alignment through Port Gamble Forest Heritage Park. Non-Motorized Plan maps were also updated that year.

Last year, design and engineering were completed for segments A, B and D of the STO Port Gamble Trail with construction scheduled for 2023. And most recently, a federal grant was received for the project along with county road funds.

According to Public Works, a couple things to consider for the NSTO moving forward include the Port Gamble Trail to Divide Block, Divide Block alternatives, West Kingston to Miller Bay Road, multiple road crossings, community connectors, etc. During the open house, many different preliminary trail segments were displayed for consideration. The paths varied and were split up into west, east and central zones.

The project is in the Tier 1 portion of the timeline called “Initial Alternative Screening.” This process consists of data collection such as wider analysis/study area, identifying options and evaluation criteria, field visits and working group meetings, and screen options per criteria. The draft criteria for evaluation of trail segments include connecting communities parks and open spaces; environmental and cultural; safety; user experience; and project delivery.

Tier 2 is about secondary alignment screening and consists of detailed analysis and refinement of 2-3 selected alignments, applying more detailed evaluation criteria, identifying “preferred alternative,” and another public open house.

The final step will be about the preferred alternative, which will include a feasibility study and a final open house. Funding would come from federal grants and county road funds.

After the NSTO presentation, the public was allowed to ask questions and provide comments. Comments consisted of: topography difficulties; concerns for wildlife habitat; ADA access; avoid putting trails through NK Heritage Park; trails need to be implemented or development would occur; and more transparency from the county on the project.

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