Sound To Olympics Questions and Answers
What is an STO trail?
The Sound to Olympics Trail (STO) is a public non-motorized transportation and recreation route across north Kitsap County. The STO is part of Washington’s Cross State Trail network that connects in Seattle and in Edmonds linking up with the Mountains to Sound Greenway (MTSG) and the Palouse to Cascade Trail (PCT) in Seattle via the ferries through North Kitsap to connect with the Olympic Discovery Trail (ODT) on the Olympic Peninsula. The STO (between Bainbridge Island & Hood Canal) and the ODT are also part of the 3,700-mile Great American Rail Trail being built across the United States from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean.
In addition to being part of this national trail corridor, the STO also serves as the spine route of a regional trail system, connecting North Kitsap communities and open space through a network of smaller local trails. This network of trails called the “String of Pearls”, is an active-transportation and recreational amenity for everyone of all ages and abilities to use as a shared-use path for walkers, runners, bikers, commuters, families with with children, bird watchers, strollers, and wheelchairs. The STO is a trail that people of all ages and abilities can use to exercise for short hikes or long adventures within their county or across the country from Washington D.C. to the Pacific Coast.
The STO is envisioned as a thread connecting open space to preserve and restore diverse native forest and fields along its route, thereby providing a continuous wildlife corridor across the Kitsap peninsula. It functions as a linear park for people to travel and recreate in bucolic settings where users can observe nature. As in the Mountains to Sound Greenway (MTSG) planning along the I-90 corridor in King & Kittitas Counties, the basic design concept of an “emerald necklace” is the expected user experience, as originally coined by the historic Olmsted park planners.
How will the STO trail benefit the Kitsap community?
The STO would give community members a mul titude of options for choosing safe, pollution-free, car-less transportation, by way of walking, rolling, or wheeling. A shared-use path gives people of all ages and abilities the opportunity to engage in active recreation known to provide physical, mental, and social health benefits. In areas where the STO connects to parks, people will be able to experience nature, thereby developing a deeper appreciation for our need to protect and care for our environment. As experienced in other rural communities with regional trail amenities, Kitsap will benefit from new economic opportunities of numerous cottage-industry opportunities along the STO route.
What route will the STO take?
Using North Kitsap Trails Association’s (NKTA) 2011 “String of Pearls” Trail Plan as a model, Kitsap County adopted a long-range county wide Non-Motorized Trails Facilities Plan in 2014 and began the engineering phase of design development for the final STO route. The western end of the STO will be the Hood Canal Bridge linking up with Jefferson County/ Clallam County’s Olympic Discovery Trail (ODT). From there it will go south through the Port Gamble Forest Heritage Park before splitting into two branches. One branch will go south towards Poulsbo before ending at the Winslow Ferry Terminal on Bainbridge Island. The other branch will head east to the Kingston Ferry Terminal, going either through or around the North Kitsap Heritage Park (NKHP). While the general direction for the STO is known, the specific routing for the various trail segments will be determined by Kitsap County, the City of Poulsbo, the City of Bainbridge Island, the Port Gamble S’Klallam and Suquamish Tribes, as well as other governmental and non-governmental partners.
Why run a paved public trail through a public park?
Currently both of North Kitsap heritage parks need more accessibility amenities in accordance with the American Disabilities Act (ADA). The STO is intended to be a local recreational route and therefore State recreational funding contributed greatly to the purchase of these large public heritage parks. In 2008 North Kitsap Trails Association (NKTA) conducted a public survey of local residents which indicated that a majority of the users surveyed, greatly preferred non-motorized routes that were separated from and not alongside roads. They also preferred paths that provide an opportunity to experience nature. In the following years, Kitsap’s two heritage parks were acquired, in part, to provide an STO route under Kitsap’s 2011 “String of Pearls” Trail Plan that catered to those desires.
How will the wildlife be affected by the STO in our Heritage Parks?
Both heritage parks are former tree farms that consisted mainly of planted Douglas Fir trees with limited biodiversity, except in the wetland and riparian areas. Over time with sustainable forest practices in place, the heritage parks will evolve into a more natural wooded environment with diverse native plants and thereby increases animal diversity. In the short-term during constructions, disruptions to ecological and public access will be necessary. The planned STO route will generally follow the path of existing logging roads and will provide emergency access routes within these large parks. Following these existing roads where possible will reduce the need for additional impervious surface, lessen the removal of plants and trees, and minimize disruption for park users during construction.
Because the STO will be built in accordance with the latest State conservation rules as well as national environmental and safety standards, ecological upgrades will be required in sensitive areas. Constructing the STO will provide ecological improvement by upgrading failing or ineffective culverts in the natural fish-bearing water courses along with regrading slopes to mitigate erosion at over-steepened areas to meet the latest accessibility and safety standards.
What will the STO look like?
The STO is a multi-use path intended for all users. As part of a national trail system the trail must comply with state and national standards. For example, the width will typically be 10 to 12 feet wide based on the anticipated number of users along with having ample room for safety and emergency vehicle access. There is also a limitation on how steep the grades can be, typically 5% with a maximum of 8%. Given our hilly topography, meeting this restriction may be a challenge in some places. In most locations the STO will be paved to provide a smooth, long-lasting surface that can be used by everyone with all levels of mobility.
Does the STO need to be paved?
While most of the expected users will be either on foot or a bicycle, the STO is required to have a surface that can accommodate users with mobility issues. Paved trails allow everyone to use them. Inclusivity and accessibility for all is what makes this trail so unique. Asphalt paving often meets that need at a reasonable cost. Depending on the location, any surface that meets the needs of the users and the criteria of funding could be used.
When will the STO be built?
The STO will be built in stages over many years. In 2018 the first mile was constructed from the ferry terminal on Bainbridge Island along SR Hwy 305, and a second short segment was completed in 2021. In Summer 2022, Poulsbo’s new Johnson Parkway traffic circle and the Noll Road Corridor improvements provides 1-mile of the STO route along with a pedestrian tunnel under SR Hwy 305. The north part of the PGFHP route is currently being evaluated for feasibility and preferred alignment. Additional sections will be added as the funding becomes available.
Who is responsible for STO Signage?
NKTA has been adding way-finding signs along the intended route. As is true of the Olympic Discovery Trail (ODT) and the Peninsula Trails Coalition (PTC), NKTA will provide signage in concert with the responsible municipalities.
Where will the STO Trail run through Poulsbo and Bainbridge Island?
The primary STO route through the Poulsbo area will run along the new Noll Road and Johnson Parkway corridor with a separated shared-use path, that is presently under construction to be completed in Summer 2022. Heading north to Port Gamble, the STO will connect with the existing Lincoln Road separated shared-use path and then follow Stottlemeyer Road up to Port Gamble Forest Heritage Park. Heading south to Bainbridge Island, the specific routing is in planning but will typically follow the SR Hwy 305 corridor toward the Agate Pass Bridge and Bainbridge Island ferry terminal. Alternative routes will be planned for STO users to take a connector loop route off the main route to enjoy a stop in historic downtown Poulsbo, running along Lemolo Shore Drive, Fjord Drive and Lincoln Road.
Where will people park their vehicles to use the STO?
The ability for local users to access trails without having to drive is a basic concept of the “String of Pearls”. As the trail network becomes more complete, locals will have greater access to the trails from their homes. Since the STO traverses north Kitsap County other users will rely on existing public parking in towns and along the route, like the PGFHP Bayview Parking lots near Port Gamble. Additional PGFHP parking lots will be added at the north end off of Port Gamble Road and at the south end off of Stottlemeyer Road, along with new horse trailer parking at the south end.
How will the STO be maintained?
Kitap County Parks and Public Works Departments along with the cities of Poulsbo and Bainbridge Island will provide long term maintenance. In some locations, the park’s volunteer stewards will help. In addition, maintenance funds might come from federal, state, or local grants, from donations, or through partnerships with non-profits.