“This has been 20 years in the making,” Bob Parlette said as he addressed a crowd of about 75 people at Lincoln Rock State Park who had assembled for a ribbon-cutting celebration of the Rocky Reach Trail on July 2. “There were times I wasn’t sure I’d live long enough to see this happen.”
Parlette, the co-chair of the Complete the Loop Coalition, was referring to the completion of Stage 1 of the Rocky Reach Trail. The right to use a Department of Transportation right-of-way extending from the Odabashian Bridge in Wenatchee to Lincoln Rock State Park for a multi-use, non-motorized trail was long contested by several growers who bordered the easement and leased the land for farming. The Washington State Supreme Court finally put a long legal tussle to bed with a 9-0 decision in favor of the trail advocates.
With the right to build the trail finally settled, the project was divided into three funding stages. Stage 1 was the north mile of the trail extending south from Lincoln Rock State Park and the stage just completed. Stage 2 will be the southern seven-tenths of a mile extending north from the Loop Trail and is expected to get under way later in the summer. Stage 3 will be the middle 3.5 miles that connects the two ends and should get under way next year.
Parlette said that more than $5 million dollars has been secured from the DOT, the Chelan Public Utilities District, the state legislature and private donations to fully fund all three stages. Even though the ribbon cutting was celebrating just the completion of Stage 1 and not the completion of the entire trail, Parlette joked, “I wanted to celebrate this before I die.”
Parlette thanked others with the Complete the Loop Coalition, like Doug Pauly and Mel Henkle, who kept the flames of this project alive, and he thanked partners like the DOT, Chelan PUD, State Parks and Douglas County — all of whom provided resources, expertise and support that made the trail possible.
Wrapping up the talking-head portion of the ceremony, Parlette made it clear he harbored no ill will over the long struggle to make this trail a reality. “I want this trail to be living testimony that growers and recreationalists can get along together,” he said.
With that, scissors were summoned and the silky ribbon spanning the fresh asphalt was sheared. And then the crowd was off. On foot, by bike, in strollers and in the back of bike trailers they flowed a mile down the trail to see for themselves what 20 years of toil had wrought.
While beautiful in setting and sweeping in design, at this stage the trail is still just a little slice of pavement representing a whole lot of toil. But next year after all 5.25 miles of the trail is finished and connected to The Loop Trail, and in a decade when tens of thousands of recreationalists have enjoyed this scenic route beside orchards and above the Columbia, the rewards will certainly have offset the effort.
Andy Dappen is the content editor of the WenatcheeOutdoors.org website, where this story first appeared.