Liberty Bay Trail plan passes last roadblock

POULSBO — Three years, several reviews and one delay later, the Liberty Bay Trail finally got the go ahead from council this week.

Though a few still urged the council to wait or reconsider the project as designed.

At its Jan. 21 meeting, the Poulsbo City Council voted unanimously to award a $226,314 construction bid to Gig Harbor’s Sound Excavation for the construction of the Liberty Bay Trail. The two-mile pedestrian route along the west side of Fjord Drive south to Lemolo Shore Drive was proposed more than three years ago to provide a safe walking path along the scenic drive.

“I think the entire city will be very pleased when this project is finished,” commented City Engineer John Stephenson, noting that he, too, was pleased with Wednesday’s outcome.

The trail’s $300,000 project price tag is paid for through a $260,000 federal grant and $20,000 in matching funds from the City of Poulsbo and Kitsap County.

At its Jan. 14 meeting, the city council was to consider awarding Sound the bid, however, the vote was delayed to allow more consideration of a proposal from the Liberty Bay Foundation/Lemolo Citizens Club. The trail design comprises a 6-foot pedestrian trail, two 10-foot traffic lanes and a 3-foot shoulder on the upland side. Stephenson plans to measure out 16 feet from the center line to determine where to pave for the trail.

But the Liberty Bay Foundation/Lemolo Citizen’s Club is suggesting the city measure from the edge to edge instead in the section of the trail that is in Kitsap County. From members’ measurements, the club said most of the stretch already contained the necessary 29 feet of pavement. Members opposed the city’s method because of the potential to destroy native plants during grading and paving on the water side.

“We ask you not pave over existing pervious area, we think there’s an easier way to achieve what you’re trying to do,” Lemolo Citizens Club President Richard Best commented Wednesday night.

Best added that his group felt the trail was “ill-conceived” and had very little community support as proposed.

Stephenson countered the club’s proposal by taking council members on a tour of the proposed trail area. He said simply shifting the roadway stripes to create a 6-foot trail, even in the already 29-foot sections, was not a safe option.

“You couldn’t push into those shoulders,” Stephenson explained. “One of the main things the county road engineer was concerned about was that in the county section, the shoulders were not constructed to the right depth to accommodate traffic. It could be used for light loads but wheel loads, especially truck wheels, would eat that up in a short period of time.”

Before taking the vote Wednesday night, Mayor Donna Jean Bruce read a letter from Councilwoman Kathryn Quade, who had originally requested the delay. Quade was absent from the meeting due to a conference. She said upon further study of the area with Stephenson, she realized that she agreed with his approach.

Councilman Ed Stern, who was also present at the meeting with Quade, Stephenson and Lemolo resident Luis Barrantes, agreed with Quade’s conclusions.

“All three of us saw pretty much irrefutable cause for why it needs to be done this way,” Stern commented. “Unless we were to cancel this project or totally redo it, there is little more choice.”

Stephenson said initial work on concrete sidewalks, curbs and gutters to serve the trail area should start in about six weeks. That project will take about 30 working days. The actual addition of the trail pavement will take place in the spring or summer when weather allows.

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