Why is the new 4th Avenue walk gravel instead of cement?

And the answer is … well, read on

Question: Read your article with interest. Thank you for highlighting the gravel trail on 4th Avenue (www.kitsapdailynews.com/news/glorified-goat-trail-gets-gravelled). It would be nice if you could do a followup as to why this “improvement” justifies the time and money, since wheelchairs, baby strollers and electric carts will still have to go out in the street. — Rene

Answer: The walkway you are referring to is on the two-block stretch on the west side of 4th Avenue NE, between Arbutus Court and Willet Lane. The week of June 19, city crews widened, leveled, graveled and tamped what Public Works Superintendent Mike Lund said had been a “glorified goat trail.”

So, after going to all that trouble, why did they use gravel and not build a cement sidewalk?

To find the answer, I took your question to Poulsbo Mayor Becky Erickson.

She told me many people had applauded the improvement. One grateful couple had even presented her with a potted plant with a card that read, “Thank you from Tom & Betty for 4th.”

She also said she shared your frustration. She wanted cement, too.

It seems the properties that the path fronts were constructed before city codes required developers and builders to include sidewalk and roadway improvements in their plans. So a sidewalk wasn’t put in when it should have been, back when the houses along it were built.

Because they have had numerous requests from residents in Poulsbo Place to do something about the so-called “goat path,” the city applied for a grant earlier this year to help pay to put in a cement pathway (a walk wide enough for both walkers and bikers). But, they didn’t get the grant.

The city didn’t want to wait any longer to take action, so they used gravel.

“We did the best we could,” the mayor said.

So what options are there to pay for a cement sidewalk in the future? According to the mayor, there are three.

The first is to try again for a grant. Which they are going to do, she said.

The second is to wait until someone decides to develop the east side of 4th Avenue across from the path. Then that developer will be responsible for putting in city-approved pathways along that stretch of 4th Avenue.

“The city’s mantra is ‘growth pays for growth.’ So if it were done today, the developer would pay for it,” said Erickson said.

The third answer is to make the property owners along that stretch of 4th Avenue pay for it.

Mayor Erickson said that’s not going to happen. While city code requires homeowners to pay for repairs for their sidewalks, the city has never enforced that rule.

“We don’t shift growth onto existing citizens,” she said. Rather, the city funds sidewalk improvements and repairs out of the General Fund.

“We want to have safe sidewalks and pathways to the best of our ability,” Erickson said.

So, for now that means gravel.

Want to learn more?

Since 2012, Poulsbo has had a plan to make Poulsbo a safe walking community. You can find the plan, “Urban Paths of Poulsbo,” at https://cityofpoulsbo.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/Revised_UPP_Comp_plan_May_2012_FINAL.pdf.

— Terryl Asla is a reporter for Kitsap News Group. He can be reached at tasla@soundpublishing.com.