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Trail to be built in S.E. 53rd greenbelt - Parks and Greenway Trust work for project

By Ruth Longoria

City parks department staff and the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust are working together to create a design for a three-foot trail through the brush and forested area within the buffer between Island Crest Way and East Mercer Way along S.E. 53rd Place.

Known only as S.E. 53rd Place Open Space, the hillside greenbelt is a priority restoration site in the city's Open Space Restoration Plan. Volunteers have worked with park department staff several times this year, including during the city's Ivy Olympics, to remove invasive plants such as ivy and improve the ecological health of the site.

The trail is expected to improve access for restoration efforts, as well as improve the opportunity for recreational use of the greenbelt, said Paul West, city arborist. ``Once we get in there and open it up more it should be a much nicer place for people to take a half-mile walk through the beautiful forest,'' West said.

Neither the city or the trust is ready to give an estimate of the cost of the project.

Construction of the trail also should discourage youth partying on the hillside. The trail is planned to go through a portion of the site that park department staff cleaned up earlier this year after it had become what looked to be a regular teen party campsite.

After design plans and permits are approved, a contractor, who specializes in back country trail construction will be hired to do the rough grading of the trail. That is expected to occur in November and the trail completed by summer 2006.

Once the trail has been graded, volunteers will be coordinated through Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust. The organization works with land managers at all of the parks and open spaces included in the Interstate 90 trail system, said Mike Stenger, trail projects coordinator for Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust. The trust will coordinate volunteers to provide the finishing touches to the trail, cleanup, and replanting native plants. Stenger already is in touch with Island Boy Scout Troop No. 467, which is expected to provide Scouts eager to earn merit badges.

West hopes completion of the trail will help the community to better appreciate the S.E. 53rd Place Open Space.

``Now, there isn't much access to the area for residents, just along the road, so neighbors probably don't feel as much a part of it,'' West said. ``But when people begin walking in there (the Open Space) they will begin to feel more connected and, who knows, it seems like the next natural step could be to give it a real name.''

Sometimes it takes residents becoming involved to get a name on the books, West added. Neighbors near what was formerly known as Tract A -- a semi-wooded area at 7400 86th Ave. S.E. that backs up to Island Crest Way -- persuaded the city last month to officially name their neighborhood oasis Wildwood Park.

And during its Oct. 17 meeting, the council dubbed Luther Burbank Park the official name of the park given to the city by King County in Jan. 2003. Naming that park, which many thought already had been done, may have been overlooked. Residents brought the Luther Burbank name matter to the attention of councilman El Jahncke, who made a motion last Monday night to officially name the park as Luther Burbank Park. The motion was unanimously approved.

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