ANACORTES — The Guemes Channel Trail project has broad community support, but a proposal to build a paved section through the wetland buffer of a protected area has some residents concerned and has raised questions with the City Council.

Some residents believe the Anacortes Parks & Recreation Department’s proposed route, which includes a paved section through the Ship Harbor Interpretative Preserve buffer, would harm critical wetland habitat.

“There’s only a couple of areas that can be protected,” Kathleen Flanagan of Anacortes, one of the residents who opposes the route, told the Anacortes American.

Resident Arlene French said she supports completion of the trail, but believes a 12-foot-wide paved path with 2-foot shoulders doesn’t belong in a wetland buffer.

Meanwhile, City Councilman Ryan Walters said that the Feb. 5 council meeting was the first time he had seen the proposed route, which was brought in by residents rather than the Parks Department.

French and resident Patricia Young showed the council members a trail concept map and warned them about potential wetland impacts.

Walters expressed concern about the plan and questioned why the council had not been brought up to speed yet by city staff.

“I am outright opposed to build a 12-foot-wide paved path through a wetland buffer,” he said. “Your first goal is to avoid impacts to the wetland and its buffer.”

Councilman Brad Adams said he had only recently heard about public opposition to this section of the trail.

“I think we need to make sure we’re protecting the environment and be more open to public input to continue to study and make the right decisions,” he said.

Parks Department Director Gary Robinson said he had expected to bring the proposal in front of the council later, when the department was applying for a permit. He said he is open to public discussion and has shared the proposal with members of the public who have asked for it.

“Our community needs to have a conversation about what this trail ought to be like and where it ought to go,” Robinson said.

A status update on Guemes Channel Trail planning efforts is scheduled for the next City Council meeting at 6 p.m. Feb. 26 at City Hall.

The Guemes Channel Trail is an envisioned 3-mile trail linking up the Tommy Thompson Trail, downtown Anacortes, the Ferry Terminal and Washington Park.

So far, the city of Anacortes, in partnership with the Anacortes Parks Foundation, has built a 1.2-mile section along the water from the Edwards Way cul-de-sac to Lovric’s Sea-Craft and Marina.

The Ship Harbor stretch would extend the trail west and connect with the ferry terminal.

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