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September 24, 2015

Typo stalls effort to close part of John Wayne Trail

PULLMAN (AP) — A legislative effort to close a substantial portion of the John Wayne Pioneer Trail, which spans much of Washington, has been temporarily stalled by a wording error.

Republican State Rep. Joe Schmick says the 250-mile trail is infrequently used, attracts crime and needs improvements. Schmick and GOP Rep. Mary Dye attempted to shut down a 130-mile portion of it by inserting a last-minute provision into the state's capital budget.

But because of a typographical error in the language — which stated the trail would be closed “from the Columbia River to the Columbia River” — the provision has been nullified until it is amended or the language is corrected.

Leaders in at least one small town on the Idaho border feel strongly that the pathway should be preserved.

“That trail is used all the time by horse riders and bicyclists,” said Ted Blaszak, member of the Tekoa City Council and president of the Tekoa Trestle and Trail Association.

The John Wayne Trail is a part of Iron Horse State Park and runs from the Cascade Range to the Idaho state line.

It is the former right of way of the Milwaukee Road railroad, acquired by the state in 1982. The section from near North Bend to the Columbia River near Vantage is managed as the state park. Other sections of the trail in Eastern Washington are undeveloped.

The lawmakers want to close the portion from Vantage to Malden, The Moscow-Pullman Daily News reported (http://bit.ly/1OuESg8).

“I'd prefer putting money in part of the trail that actually gets used,” Schmick said.

Schmick said property owners along the trail have complained to him about theft, trespassing, vandalism and illegal dumping. He also noted a lack of water along the trail and the potential fire hazard.

The Tekoa City Council has condemned efforts to close the trail, and more than 30 people attended an emergency meeting in the town Monday to express their support for the path.

A news release from the Tekoa trail association said closing the trail would negatively impact the economies, social life and identity of several communities along the route.

Blaszak noted the welcome sign heading into Tekoa reads “Welcome to the end of the John Wayne Trail.” He added he and his wife walk the trail three or four times a week and haven't noticed any crime.

“There's a lot of money out there to preserve the trail that our legislators haven't been looking for,” Blaszak said.

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