By Kara McMurray Gazette Reporter
A public forum to discuss the future of the former rail line between Colfax and Pullman has been slated in Pullman for June 5 at 6 p.m. in the Community Congregational Church on Campus Street. The discussion will center around the fate of the state-owned rail line corridor once operated by Watco. The line is currently not in use, and Pullman Civic Trust, which organized the public forum, is hoping a series of public forums will help the Washington State Department of Transportation (DOT) determine what to do with the former rail. “DOT owns the asset, and they need to determine what they want to do with it, but they don’t have the time and the resources to do it,” said Rich Wesson, board member with Pullman Civic Trust. “The process we’re putting together is very similar to what DOT would do. It is to help the DOT decide what they should do.” Wesson said when this process initially started, Pullman Civic Trust’s goal was to help the discussion center around converting the former rail line to a recreational trail between Colfax and Pullman, which would run on the right-of-way through Albion. “We’re advocates of turning it into a trail,” he said. “We feel that, above all, trails promote a sense of community.” Landowners and others have objected to the trail conversion concept in meetings with the Port of Whitman and commissioners. Wesson said the process and discussion now is going to be more focused on hearing all of the interests to determine how to move forward. Wesson added that a leadership committee has been formed to oversee the public forums and for compiling the information to give to the DOT. This committee includes representatives from the DOT, Whitman County, Pullman, Albion, Colfax, WSU, landowners along the line and Pullman Civic Trust. Wesson said the options for the trail include rail banking it either for the DOT’s possible future use of restoring the line or for conversion to a recreational trail, or abandoning the line and returning the land to the adjacent landowners. If the line is ultimately abandoned, it would be nearly impossible to restore it to a rail line in the future, Wesson commented. Wesson said there will be additional public forums in Albion and Colfax at dates to be announced. Also, there will be two more in Pullman, with one specifically being for Pullman and the other for WSU, also on dates to be determined. He said he is hoping to have all the information compiled by the fall to pass to the DOT. “DOT wants it by the end of the year so they can then make a recommendation to the legislature,” he said. “I think that’s ambitious because we might find the need to have more meetings.” Anyone with questions can contact Lisa Carloye, Pullman Civic Trust president, at 509-332-9343.
Malden is gearing up for a Memorial Day celebration this weekend with the second annual Malden Appreciation Day. Family events are planned for the afternoon and evening of Saturday, May 28. The activities include a family kickball tournament beginning at 4 p.m. at Carman Field and a free outdoor movie to commence at dusk. The free movie, “We Bought A Zoo,” will be shown on Main Street. Malden Appreciation Day 2016 is sponsored by the Malden community and Avista Corp. Event organizers ask participants not to bring alcoholic beverages to any of the appreciation day events.