Touchet Valley Trail
A trail connecting the rural communities of Dayton and Waitsburg has long been a dream. The Port of Columbia has been working diligently to make that dream a reality since it was first identified as a priority at Columbia County’s 2015 Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy meeting. The 9.7 mile trail is included in the Blue Mountain Region Trails plan and is now ready for concept design and engineering in 2019.
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The Port has received grants from the National Park Service and WSDOT that will aid in the design of the trail. The project will be led by a steering committee who will engage in public outreach to ensure the final trail meets our community needs.Read More FAQs
What is the Touchet Valley Trail?
The proposed Touchet Valley Trail will connect the main streets of Dayton and Waitsburg along the existing active rail line. This rails-with-trails project has the potential to increase tourism, improve economic development and health outcomes in the community, and provide better access to recreation and nature. It is part of the proposed Blue Mountain Region Trails plan.
Where will the trail start and end?
The trail will have two trailheads – one at the north end of Main Street in Waitsburg, and one behind the courthouse on 3rd and Commercial Street in Dayton. There will be several parking areas along the route for users who want to start in the middle.
What are the anticipated economic benefits of the Touchet Valley Trail?
Trails and other recreational opportunities attract people and dollars. Trail towns benefit from the influx of visitors going to restaurants, snack shops, and other retail establishments. They also increase the attractiveness of nearby properties. When considering where to move, prospective homebuyers rank proximity to walking and biking paths as one of their top priorities. While the average effect on individual tax rates is fairly small, the total effect from all properties close to a trail is substantial for the communities the trail connects. Finally, trails can make communities more attractive to businesses looking to expand or relocate. Businesses see trails as amenities their employees and their visitors will enjoy.
What is the project history?
July 2015: Community Council released their report on “Enhancing Outdoor Recreation Opportunities”. This report, put together after extensive meetings and workshops with the Walla Walla Valley community, examined the ways in which adding recreation to the region would impact the social, environmental, and economic growth of the area. One of the recommendations of the report was to build more trails in the region.
December 2015: At the annual Columbia County Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy meeting, local residents and community leaders ranked a “recreational path between Dayton and Waitsburg” among the top three priorities in the region.
January-May 2017: Regional Trail Planning Community Meetings were held in the region, including one in Dayton on January 30, 2017 and one on May 1, 2017. Meetings were held in both English and Spanish and gathered more than 1,000 comments on different trail needs in the region.
January 2018: The Blue Mountain Region Trail Plan was officially adopted in January 2018. The Touchet Valley Trail was identified as one of the top priorities in that plan.
January 2019: The Port of Columbia, through a technical assistance grant from the National Park Service, began developing a concept plan for the Touchet Valley Trail.
Who is involved in the planning and how long will it take?
The Port of Columbia, in collaboration with the National Park Service, has convened a Touchet Valley Trail Steering Committee to guide the planning process for the trail. The steering committee is comprised of stakeholders for the project, listed below. The goal is to have a concept plan completed by the end of 2019, with engineering and design scheduled for 2020. The steering committee will be pursuing construction grants in 2020 and 2021, with construction hopefully completed by the end of 2022.
Touchet Valley Trail Steering Committee:
Meagan Bailey, Planning Director, Columbia County
Trina Cole, City Clerk / Administrator, City of Dayton
Genie Crowe, Recreationalist
Shaun Darveshi, Director/Transportation Engineer, Palouse RTPO
Jennie Dickinson, Executive Director, Port of Columbia
Clara Dickinson-McQuary, Program Specialist 2, Washington State Parks
Paul Didelius, Owner/President, Columbia Rail
Chuck Eaton, Public Works Director / County Engineer, Columbia County
Paul Gonseth, Planning Engineer, WSDOT
Ken Graham, Recreationalist
Randy Hinchcliffe, City Administrator, City of Waitsburg
Joy Smith, President, Waitsburg Commercial Club
Alex Stone, Community Planner, NPS RTCA Program
Kathryn Witherington, Economic Development Coordinator, Port of Columbia
Will private property rights be infringed upon?
No. The trail will be built entirely within the railroad right-of-way, which is owned by the Port of Columbia. If adjacent landowners have questions or concerns regarding how trail use may impact their property, they can reach out to Kathryn Witherington at 509-382-2577 or firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss in more details.
Which side of the railroad track will the trail be on?
It’s too early to say! The trail will have to switch sides occasionally throughout the 9.7 mile corridor. Geography, proximity to the highway, and other factors will ultimately determine which side of the rail the trail will be on. Once engineering and design starts in 2020, we’ll have a better idea of where the trail will run. However, the trail will always be within the Port-owned right of way. It will not run through private property.
Who will develop the trail and maintain it?
The trail project is led by the Port of Columbia. The concept and design plans will include plans for maintenance, which will likely come through a combination of volunteers and the municipalities where the trail is located.
Please contact Kathryn at 509-382-2577 or at email@example.com with questions. Check back on this website often for updates!