CASTLE ROCK — Officials announced Monday the city received roughly $374,000 from the state to complete the city’s final section of a long-running plan to connect Cowlitz County trails for pedestrians and cyclists.
City crews are widening shoulders, adding lights, updating crosswalk signals and creating sidewalks in Castle Rock along the city’s section of a roughly 41-mile nonmotorized pathway called the Six Rivers Regional Trail System. Castle Rock is the first city to begin work on the proposed trail along the Interstate 5 corridor in Cowlitz County, according to a 2020 project report.
Castle Rock Public Works Director Dave Vorse said he is not giving up on the long-running plan to build the trail system, which started in 2015 according to a planning document.
“We want to make this Six Rivers Trail a reality, and a create a safer place for bicyclists and pedestrians,” Vorse said.
‘Work has just begun’
The city’s latest improvement plans and funding are the last round of trail work needed in Castle Rock — the “starting place” of the project, Vorse said.
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The trail is set to run from the county road of Barnes Drive near I-5’s exit 57 near Vader in the north, to Woodland’s CC Street in the south, connecting six local rivers — Cowlitz, Toutle, Coweeman, Columbia, Kalama and Lewis — and four cities — Castle Rock, Kelso, Kalama and Woodland.
“The work has just begun,” Vorse said.
Improvements are not being made linearly from the start of the trail in Vader to the end in Woodland, he added. Vorse said improvements outside of Castle Rock will depend on the sections’ municipalities, but said he is “anxious to help” agencies find funding options to continue the pathway.
The trail is to be comprised of 50% county roads, 45% city roads and 5% state highways, a planning document states.
‘Enjoying the open space’
This latest round of funds in Castle Rock will cover such city improvements as installing updated pedestrian signals at I-5’s exit 49 so people can safely cross the overpass, Vorse said. He said work in this latest phase could begin as early as fall 2022 and finish in spring 2023.
In Castle Rock, the Six Rivers Trail is planned to run along Huntington Avenue around I-5’s exit 49, connect with the city’s existing Riverfront Trail, then continue to Pleasant Hill Road and North Pacific Avenue for a total of about 7 miles.
Riverfront Trail includes almost 2 miles of a lighted, paved pathway along the eastern side of the Cowlitz River to the North County Sports Complex, which includes a boat launch and soccer and baseball fields, according to the city.
The first phase of the city’s work on the Six Rivers Trail started in fall 2021, Vorse said. Crews installed a pedestrian island at the southbound ramp of I-5’s exit 49, and are waiting to restripe lanes and crosswalks there when the weather is warmer and dryer, he added.
When work is done, Vorse said he expects more people to be outside.
“I’m excited to see the possibility of more pedestrians, runners and bicyclists out, getting active and enjoying the open space,” he said.