As a climate activist, cyclist, and advocate for non-motorized transportation, I followed with interest the discussion earlier this summer around a paved North Kitsap Sound to Olympics trail, proposed in the vicinity of North Kitsap Heritage Park. I offer here a few perspectives that may be relevant there or in any regional planning, along with some examples of what may work.
— The biggest threat to the critters (for whom the paved surface was voiced to be an impairment to movement) is the climate crisis. Our wetlands will probably dry up and disappear unless the crisis is stopped. Temperature increases will mean the critters will have to migrate north because our region won’t be habitable for them anymore.
— If engineering studies identify critical areas for which additional measures are needed to accommodate critter movement, there are solutions out there. A great example of trail design in wetland areas is the Soos Creek Trail in King County, where sections of the trail surface are elevated, and wetland creatures pass underneath.
— I would hope those who are reluctant to have a paved trail are doing all they can to mitigate emissions and reduce their own carbon footprint to slow this existential threat to both us and the critters. This would mean eliminating their combustion of fossil fuels by driving an electric or human powered transport device, switching from natural gas heat to a heat pump, moving to a 100% plant-based diet, and possibly installing solar PV on their roofs.
— We need to offer people safe ways to get out of their cars and into low-carbon transportation such as walking or cycling. My electric bike uses 20 times less electricity than my electric car, but most of our roads in Kitsap County are not safe for riding it. A paved, shared-use path is one way we can offer people a safe means of low-carbon transportation complementing our public transport system.
— Earlier this summer we rode our bicycles from Bremerton to Auburn. After a white-knuckle ride to the south reaches of Kitsap County, we were mostly on safe, paved, shared-use paths or neighborhood greenways for the rest of the journey. In May I pedaled my bicycle between Suquamish and Rialto Beach and back. The color returned to my knuckles after reaching Discovery Bay, beyond which 90% of my riding was on the paved Olympic Discovery Trail or neighborhood greenways. A Sound to Olympics Trail would be a great start in closing a gap in this county’s transportation infrastructure. State funding is available for paved, safe trails that are accessible for the mobility impaired, who have a right not just to non-motorized transportation but also to access our park system including North Kitsap Heritage. A vision of the regional Puget Sound trail system from www.leaflinetrails.org can be viewed by scrolling down the page to the “click to view interactive map.”
— Mayor Greg Wheeler and the Bremerton City Council have done an excellent job of planning and implementing bike and pedestrian north/south and east/west corridors. Four of those projects will be completed this year. Austin Drive, the downtown business area, Perry Avenue, and the re-striping of Kitsap Way. The proposed changes are awesome and will make cyclists far more comfortable and thereby will increase utilization.
— Let’s also celebrate Mayor Becky Erickson of Poulsbo on the Highway 305 and Johnson Road roundabout and tunnel. This September this safety improvement project will make it safe for children of all ages and abilities to walk, bike, or roll underneath Highway 305 on a paved, shared-use path connecting neighborhoods to the north with the downtown waterfront.
— Kitsap County has non-motorized plans dating back to 1996 that would significantly improve safety for bikes and pedestrians. It’s time to systematically start implementing these plans so that our citizens of all ages and abilities have a place to walk, bike or roll in a safe environment.
We should move forward with design on the Sound to Olympics Trail and be discussing how to improve our environment while at the same time as building a paved trail. We did it at Clear Creek, and we can do it at North Kitsap Heritage Park.
Charlie Michel lives in Bremerton and is retired after a 32-year career as a petroleum engineer working internationally. He now works on initiatives to improve climate, safe cycling, health, and equity by accelerating the transition from fossil fuels to clean energy and lower carbon lifestyles, including health-promoting adoption of plant-based diets.