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Foothills Trail

The foothills trail winds a path along the Puyallup river, from behind Kmart to the bridge on 5th St. N.E. Eventually, with more funding, the trail will run the entire length, from Puyallup to Buckley. Included will be a branch from Lower Cascade Junction to Wilkenson and to Carbonado.

Where the Burlington Northern train once moved coal and lumber, now is paved and used by hundreds of runners, walkers, horses, bicyclists, and roller-bladers. There are open grass areas, and picnic tables where a home made meal tastes perfect in the fresh air and summer sun. Or, if you simply need a break from a brisk walk, benches with views of the Puyallup river can be found along the pathway. A perfect setting where family’s often stroll in the summer sun, stopping to talk to neighbors and old friends. Children use the path to walk home from school, couples walk hand, bird watchers scout the banks for glimpses of a majestic bald eagle, fishermen try for one that didn’t get away, and everyone enjoys the gorgeous views of Mt. Rainer and the Puyallup River.

The section of trail through Orting is one of the more scenic trails I have ridden. Traveling (or walking) east from the parking area between Mc Millen and Orting, you have a full, unobstructed view of Mt. Rainer in all its beautiful glory. New housing developments blend with open farmland. Riding the trail during the summer weekends affords special treats, like the small community festivals Orting holds throughout the summer.

To traverse the trail at different times of the year is to see an up close view of the seasons, and the changes those seasons bring. Where corn grows high in a field during the hot summer heat, cows stroll with there young in the early spring. The late summer floods of the Puyallup River are contrasted by the mid summer fishermen standing on the sand bars in which dominate during the mid summer months. In autumn migratory birds pass overhead on their route to warmer climates, while others decide the towering trees above the river are a perfect place to raise their little bird families. No matter the time of year, there is always much beauty to see and experience.

Some history of the trail. Much of the land was acquired from the Burlington Northern Railway’s abandonment of their rail bed in 1982. Other land was purchased through grants and federal matching funds. It has been a long, difficult process for the visionaries behind this project. The founder recognized the need for a trail system in Puyallup, and seen the wonderful potential for a path along the banks of the Puyallup river. Through painstaking work, the Coalition was able to acquire sections of land, piece by piece, permit by permit, in hopes of creating this trail.

Sadly, the project is currently delayed because of those same salmon. The protection of salmon has stopped further expansion of the trail, as the county worries about is potential impact on salmon spanning. Currently, the Salmon Recovery Act has mandated biological assessments concerning the impact of expanding the Puyallup and the South Prairie Foothills Trail segments, which has delayed their expansion. The South Prairie section has been granted preliminary approval from National Marine Fisheries, but the full biological assessment process will not be complete until late summer or early fall! Perhaps we can again resume with trail expansion by early 2001, depending on their findings.

The northern end of the current trail, from Mc Millen to Sumner has it’s own unique set of problems which have slowed expansion. Under Federal Law, while these tracks (and their required easement) were granted to Burlington Northern Railroad, the railroad can in turn either lease the tracks to another company, or allow an entity to purchase the easement for use as a public thoroughfare. Fortunately, both the railroad, and the current holder of the lease on this section of the tracks have come to an agreement, the trail will soon be extended to the current location of the VanLierop farm near East Pioneer. Additionally, local farmers insist their business will suffer from the trail expansion, or they may suffer lawsuits over trail users inhaling the chemicals used in treating their crops. (?). Regardless, the trail will be extended, and thousands of users will soon enjoy the expansion for walking, biking, rollerblading, and enjoying the beauty of the valley.

The Foothills Rails-To-Trails Coalition does need our help in completing this wonderful trail. Along with the trail, the Foothills Rails-to-Trails Coalition is hopeful that, along with the city of Puyallup, other land currently available can be purchased for an additional city park, with facilities for a Tiny Tot playground, and additional riverfront grass open area for all to enjoy. It is an obtainable goal, but only with your help. With a monetary donation, a call to your legislator or the city of Puyallup, or an appearance at a city council meeting, we can get the funds for that park, playground, and parking lot. Let’s make this happen!

Any donation, and all your help are greatly appreciated.

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