‘String of Pearls’ like a gift to NK outdoor enthusiasts

With Valentine’s Day coming up, a string of pearls might mean a gift for someone you love. If you’re a music fan, you might think of the classic Glenn Miller song.

But if you’re an outdoor enthusiast in North Kitsap County, you probably think of the connected trail system that has been in the works for years.

Progress has now reached the stage of a draft report on the North Sound to Olympics Trail. The county Public Works study outlines the methodology, analysis and recommended alternatives for the trail that will connect Kingston to Port Gamble Park. The deadline to comment on the draft is 8 a.m. March 11. To access the document go to kcowa.us/NSTO

The entire project over the next 20 to 30 years is expected to cost an estimated low of $74.51 million to a high of $89.41 million.

Dozens of comments have already been shared at various meetings. One by Paul Christensen quickly summarizes what most of them say. “I am writing to voice my opposition to the Sound to Olympics trail that runs through the North Kitsap Heritage Park. As proposed it would ruin the habitat and would do immense damage to the park and a visitor’s experience.”

Comments by Joan and Tim Mueller add a little more information: “We are still shell shocked over the massive clear cutting taking place surrounding the Arborwood development…which has eliminated massive wildlife habitat in just a couple of weeks. Paving a road through NKHP will displace what wildlife is still left. Enough with future wildlife displacement. Allowing more destruction of our woods/habitat is killing the soul of this peninsula.”

According to the draft report:

“The String of Pearls Trails plan is envisioned as a way of enriching all of Kitsap County by connecting North Kitsap’s unique communities with a trail system that will help create a myriad of community, regional, land and water trails, and link to each community and their neighborhood trails.

“These trails will enhance the quality of life for residents by connecting people with natural areas and creating options for active lifestyles. An integrated trail system will enhance the local economy with options for exercise, transportation, eco-tourism and enjoyment of beautiful natural settings. The trails will become a safe, pleasant, healthy and frequent choice for people of all ages, interests and abilities.”

It goes on to say: “String of Pearls has prioritized a single spine of paved bike route combining the Sound to Olympics 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.”

Based on the analysis and results of this study, a connecting route through NK Heritage Park, Grover’s Creek Preserve (owned by Great Peninsula Conservancy), and the Divide Block (owned by Pope Resources, LLC and acquired by Rayonier, Inc. ) will provide an optimal and viable regional, shared-use path across the NK Peninsula in a way that balances the needs and values of the community, accessibility, user experience and critical area protection.

The U.S. and state Departments of Transportation define a shared-use path as being a minimum 10 feet wide, paved facility with 2-foot-wide gravel shoulders on each side. Shared-use paths must be accessible by all users, including those with mobility devices and vision disabilities.

Shareholder engagement and public outreach were important components of the study, and the process was frequently refined as a result. That was evident from the onset when Kitsap County, based on community comments, adjusted the scope to assess a wider range of potential path alignments through the area.

Throughout the planning, the project team coordinated closely with a Working Group, consisting of members of the community with knowledge of the project area and trail system. Three public meetings were held.

The goal of the Tier 1 analysis was to study and evaluate over 60 path segments and to combine the most suitable into longer alignments across the project area. The segments were studied using a qualitative screening and rating process using criteria within five categories including 1) Connecting Communities, Parks, and Open Spaces, 2) Environmental, 3) Safety, Health & Function, 4) User Experience, and 5) Project Delivery. For each criteria, a rating metric of high/medium/low impacts or positive/moderate/negative outcomes were determined.

Whereas the Tier 1 analysis was generally qualitative, the Tier 2 analysis was qualitative and quantitative. Segment routes were refined based on topography and critical areas and then rated. That created a preferred, continuous route between Kingston and Port Gamble Forest Heritage Park.

Phasing and costs due to the length of the preferred alignment (7.93 miles) and typical grant funds available, it is likely that the selected path would be designed, engineered, permitted and constructed in phases. Nine potential phases of implementation were identified, generally starting in the east and working west toward heritage park.

Partnerships with local agencies and other entities with shared interests, goals, and project elements will be developed during the course of any pre-design, design and permitting of project phases. The study will inform Public Works prioritization of trail projects in the development of the county’s Six-Year Transportation Improvement Program and Annual Construction Program.

TIMELINE2011 – “String of Pearls” adopted by Kitsap County

2013 – STO incorporated into county’s Non-Motorized Plan and Non-Motorized Routes maps

2015 – “Divide Block” feasibility study completed to identify the STO alignment between Miller Bay Road and Port Gamble Road

2018 – “Port Gamble Trail” feasibility study completed to identify the STO alignment through Port Gamble Heritage Park. The study analyzed various possible alignments within the park and identified a “preferred alternative” route.

2018 – Bainbridge Island constructs first mile of South STO along Highway 305 from ferry terminal.

2018 – Non-Motorized Plan maps was updated.

2020 – 2020 STO Network Map updated.

2021 – Port Gamble Trail Design and engineering begins for Segments A, B, & D, with construction scheduled for 2023.

2022 – North Sound to Olympics Trail study

2022 – Poulsbo constructs portion of Noll Road corridor and STO tunnel under Highway 305