Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Olympia Approves Pathway to Trail System

Above: Charlotte Olson, 92, walks off the Chehalis Western trail to her residence at The Firs, an independent living facility on Lilly Road in Olympia, on Wednesday. On Tuesday, the Olympia city council approved the purchase of a pedestrian and bicycle access easement from Ensign Road near The Firs.

By Janine Gates
Little Hollywood

Making a dream come true for many seniors, the Olympia city council approved on Tuesday night the purchase of a pedestrian and bicycle access easement near The Firs, an independent living facility on Lilly Road in Olympia.

The city will construct and maintain the pathway which will provide access to and from the Chehalis Western trail system from Ensign Road.  

Installation will require the removal of one tree and some vegetation trimming around a streetlight which will also be installed. 

The project is expected to be completed by September or October.

First reported by Little Hollywood last summer, residents of The Firs had worked for over two years to gain safe access from the edge of the facility’s property to the trail. Many of the residents use canes, walkers, wheelchairs and motorized scooters.

The hazardous connection is from the end of the property’s sidewalk at the end of Ensign Road to a steep, 65 foot dirt path that drops several inches, then dips down into the middle of a drainage ditch, and rises again to meet the trail.

The city had neglected to obtain the right of way when the facility was built in the 1980s and the property owner, Olympia PropCo, LLC, denied the city access.

Negotiations between the City of Olympia and property owners stalled.

Finally, an offer of compensation and a settlement agreement was reached in March. The easement will cost the city $24,000.

Residents of The Firs are thrilled with the news.

Sherman Beverly and Freeman Stickney, along with several other residents, were active in presenting a petition to the city’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee signed by residents asking the Olympia City Council to take action on the issue.

Beverly and Stickney each served as resident council president and expressed joy upon hearing the news on Wednesday.

Max Rheinhardt, executive director of The Firs, said he is excited for the residents.

“I’m excited that it’s come to fruition,” said Rheinhardt on Wednesday, crediting the efforts of MBK Senior Living, The Firs’ management company. He said the facility will hold a grand opening for the pathway when it is complete.

Above: “It's a nice trail, says Charlotte Olson, 92, as she comes off the Chehalis Western Trail, navigates the steep dirt path, and steps onto the sidewalk at the end of Ensign Road.

Charlotte Olson, 92, was seen walking off the Chehalis Western trail on Wednesday to her residence at The Firs. Olson is excited about the completion of the pathway project. With the assistance of a cane, she takes a half hour walk on the trail nearly every day and enjoys seeing the dogs and bicycles. 

“You gotta keep moving!” she said as she entered The Firs.

Keith Edgerton works across the street from The Firs as the Providence St. Peter Hospital Sustainability Coordinator. He is also the hospital’s employee transportation coordinator as part of its commute trip reduction program.

Coincidentally, and unbeknownst to the residents of The Firs at the time, a neighborhood pathway application to the city had been independently written and submitted in mid-2015 by Edgerton, on behalf of the Woodland Trail Greenway Association.

“We are very excited about this new trail connection to Ensign Road from the Chehalis Western Trail,” said Edgerton.

“We offer incentives for alternative forms of transportation commuters and have bike lockers, bike cages and bike racks located around our campus so we hope this new trail connection will make it easier and more enticing for employees and the public to ride their bike to the hospital. 

“Our hospital is committed to improving the quality of life for our community so we are just as excited for this new ADA accessible access to the trail for all of the retired folks and hope they feel more comfortable accessing the trail safely after the new trail connection is installed. 

“Providence St. Peter Hospital is very appreciative of The Firs ownership for granting an easement to the city of Olympia to allow this trail connection to be built,” said Edgerton.

The Chehalis Western trail system offers 56 miles of paved, uninterrupted trails, allowing access to regional businesses, homes, work, and recreational activities.

To read Little Hollywoods July 31, 2017 story, Seniors Denied Safe Access to Trail System, go to

Port of Olympia Seeks Clearer Vision

Above: The Port of Olympia has launched a new initiative, Vision 2050. A 27 member task force, which includes Chris Richardson, Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation, and Rhys Roth, Center for Sustainable Infrastructure, above, met for the first time on Tuesday.

By Janine Gates
Little Hollywood

Eager for a fresh start after ousting executive director Ed Galligan last month, the Port of Olympia has embarked upon a public outreach initiative called Vision 2050. 

A 27 member task force is charged with helping port staff and consultants interpret public feedback that will help shape how the port will look, feel and function in the years ahead.

Task force members were handpicked by port staff, its project consultant, and Thurston Regional Planning Council staff. They met for the first time Tuesday afternoon at the Lacey branch of South Puget Sound Community College. Eighteen task force members were in attendance, and one called in on speaker phone.

The public process is off to a rocky start. 

Notice for the meeting was sent out at 2:20 p.m. on Monday afternoon only to those who were already on the port commission agenda email list. A press release, social media postings, and links on the Port's website announcing the initiative will be posted Wednesday, said staff.

“While I understand the short notice wasn't ideal, it still fell within the 24-hour notice required for public meetings,” Jennie Foglia-Jones, Port of Olympia communications manager, told Little Hollywood on Tuesday morning.

The port's website for Vision 2050 is and is expected to go live on Wednesday.

No port commissioners were in attendance, but acting executive director Rudy Rudolph was present throughout the meeting. One member of the public was present. 

Vision 2050 Purpose

The meeting agenda included an overview of port functions and financing by Eric Johnson, executive director of the Washington Public Ports Association.

“We are fundamentally about community control of important assets such as waterfronts, airports and industrial areas,” he said.

Throwing the doors wide open, Johnson said ports have a lot of flexibility in what they choose to do, adding that ports now have the authority to own and operate tourism facilities.

It was Marc Daily, executive director of Thurston Regional Planning Council, who asked about the elephant in the room – port acceptance of controversial cargo such as military cargo and ceramic proppants - and asked whether or not the port has a choice in what it decides to accept.

Johnson walked back his comments saying the port has to abide by certain laws such as the Federal Shipping Act of 1984 which states that terminal operators cannot unreasonably discriminate in the provision of terminal services.

Throughout the two hour meeting, task force representatives asked questions, obviously unclear about their role, what they were being asked to do, and why.

Staff responded that the project’s scope of work was approved by the commissioners. 

While the commissioners adopted its current strategic plan in 2017 and like it, they are open to feedback. Depending on the feedback, the commissioners may go back and revisit the plan, said Foglia-Jones.

“The primary responsibility of the task force is to ensure we design a comprehensive and inclusive engagement process, interpret community input accurately and translate those ideas into a vision and action plan that ensures the Port remains prepared, impactful and sustainable in the years ahead,” she said.

The task force is anticipated to meet approximately five times between June 2018 and August 2019 and will be responsible for presenting a recommended vision plan, with strategies and actions to the commissioners for consideration and adoption.

It is unclear when the group will meet again, but it may be several months or up to a year.

The consultant and his team will interview selected community members, conduct an online survey, offer presentations and forums, and use social media to collect public feedback.

Questions posed will include: 

When you think of the Port today, what's the first thing that comes to mind?

The Port funds operations through multiple business lines. What do you consider priority areas for future revenue growth?

Looking forward, what do you perceive as the Port's most significant barriers to success?

Over the longer term, where do you think the Port should focus direction and/or investment?

Public Involvement

With fifteen minutes to spare in the agenda, task force members were asked to review and endorse the consultant’s proposed public engagement plan.

Helen Wheatley of Olympia holds one of the four public-at-large positions but was unsure of her role and hesitated to endorse the process. She said more time is needed to ensure representational community engagement.

She wondered about the methodology for identifying stakeholders and expressed concern that the group wasn’t being asked to provide input into the study or the outreach methods.

“The actual request for proposals for this project says the Port of Olympia is seeking assistance in the development of a community vision for the Port of Olympia. It also says it would be in alignment with the update to the Port’s Strategic Plan, she said.

Referring to a 2012 citizen survey conducted by the Port of Olympia, she wondered what the port plans to do with the information it gathers about community values and preferences if it is not in alignment with the port’s current strategic plan.

She is requesting that the public make suggestions about organizations that should be on the task force.

“Organizations that should really be on this committee list need to be alerted that this is happening,” she said.

Above: Helen Wheatley, in pink, provides feedback to Thurston Regional Planning Council staff during a meeting of the Port of Olympia Vision 2050 initiative.

Task Force Members

Travis Matheson, Task Force Chair, Vice-Chair, Port of Olympia Citizens Advisory Committee
Stephen Bramwell, WSU Extension/South Thurston Economic Development Initiative (STEDI)
Michael Cade, Thurston Economic Development Council
Jeff Choke, Nisqually Indian Tribe
Josh Cummings, Thurston County
Todd Cutts, Olympia Downtown Alliance
Marc Daily, Thurston Regional Planning Council
John Doan, City of Tumwater
Ann Freeman-Manzanares, Intercity Transit
Michael Grayum, City of Yelm
Brian Hardcastle, Tumwater School District
Brad Hooper, North Thurston School District
Teri Pablo, Yelm Community Schools
Ray Peters, Squaxin Island Tribe
Drew Phillips, Public-at-Large
Bryan Reilly, Olympia & Belmore Railroad
Chris Richardson, Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation
Rob Rose, International Longshore Workers Union Local #47
Rhys Roth, Center for Sustainable Infrastructure at The Evergreen State College
David Schaffert, Thurston Chamber of Commerce
Bill Sloane, Olympia Yacht Club
Keith Stahley, City of Olympia
Shanna Stevenson, Public-at-Large
Shauna Stewart, Experience Olympia & Beyond
Dr. Tim Stokes, South Puget Sound Community College
Rick Walk, City of Lacey
Helen Wheatley, Public-at-Large

For more information about Port of Olympia issues, go to Little Hollywood, and type in keywords.