Kitsap Trails . . And a Non-Motorized Highway

Kitsap County residents have long struggled with the dichotomy of living in a rural setting while at the same time having very few opportunities to enjoy the outdoors on trails.  Kitsap County is attempting to fix this situation with a planning effort that will connect trails from one end of the county to the other.

It’s important to note that this current planning effort is not a plot to take over road and highway capacity for walkers and bikers.  But it may represent a real step forward in the livability quotient of Kitsap County, just across Puget Sound from Seattle.  More details from the Kitsap Sun:

PORT ORCHARD — By the end of the year, Kitsap County will have a comprehensive trail plan outlining routes for walkers, cyclists, and even equestrians from the south end of the county to trails already approved for North Kitsap.

The trail system would include direct routes between Kitsap’s cities and unincorporated population centers to make it safe for bicyclists to get to and from work, as well as routes that spur off from the main connector trails to link to parks and recreational areas.

“It’s looking at creating a nonmotorized highway down through the county and the opportunity to branch off to get to these outside destinations safely,” said county planner Dennis Oost. “The point is not to get in the car to do anything. You can get on your bike or walk from your house.”

This isn’t the first time the county has embarked on a cross-county trail planning effort.

There was the Kitsap Greenways plan, completed in 1996 but never approved by county commissioners. There also was a plan mapping bicycle routes completed in 2001, and later a Mosquito Fleet Trails plan.

Those plans, plus the recently adopted North Kitsap Trails Association plan, will be used in the current effort, Oost said. A draft of the plan will need to be ready for the county’s planning commission by September, Oost said, but using the work of previous planning efforts should mean the group won’t have to reinvent the wheel.

Kitsap County commissioners directed Oost to complete the plan this year after they approved the North Kitsap Trails Association plan in November. Trails association members took years to complete that plan, which was previously called the String of Pearls.

The NK plan aims to connect different parts of the north end using trails across land owned by Pope Resources, land donated by private property owners, county rights of way and property like the North Kitsap Heritage Park.

After approving the north-end plan, the commissioners asked county planners to develop a similar plan for the central and south end communities. Commissioners want to include a regional trails plan in its comprehensive plan amendments at the end of 2012. Including the trails plan in the county comprehensive plan will make it easier to apply for grant funding, Oost said.

The plan will provide guidance for where to locate and build new trail connections, but it will also identify priority areas where connections already exist but need safety improvements or extensions of bike lanes and shoulders.

The county held its first trails planning meeting Thursday at the Long Lake community meeting room. Fifteen people attended — most of them cyclists and many of them members of the West Sound Cycling Club. Because of the interest in cycling, the meeting focused on setting goals and policies to improve road safety for cyclists and identifying a direct route through the county for cyclists.

Trail planning meetings will be held most Thursdays and will alternate between Central and South Kitsap. The content of the meetings will overlap so people don’t have to drive out of the area to stay informed. The next meeting will be Thursday in Central Kitsap. A meeting location and time are still being finalized. For more information email Dennis Oost at