Estuary trail system opens to public Saturday

MARYSVILLE – Dreams do come true.

That will be evident Saturday as the city opens its Ebey Waterfront Trails system.

Mayor Jon Nehring and city parks director Jim Ballew, along with other city leaders and residents, have been dreaming of this day for years. Despite cloudy skies and light rain, they were all smiles Wednesday as they showed off two new interpretive signs that were just installed.

Ballew said the trails consultant hired a historical, interpretive writer to do the signs. “They add a lot,” Nehring said.

Ballew said some of the signs will explain the history and former use of the area, while others talk about current opportunities.

“They tell the story of the basin; put it all in context,” Ballew said.

The mayor said the system adds a lot to the city. Trail users will see the city from a “different perspective.” He also said it will attract people to the area.

The grand opening will take place April 22 from 10 a.m. to noon at Ebey Waterfront Park, 1404 First St. The event will include refreshments and music, plus free maps and giveaways to the first 200 people.

The first phase of the three-part project is complete, offering public access to the Ebey Slough shoreline and opportunities for outdoor recreation and exploration.

Ballew said the entire 5-mile project should be done in 1 1/2 years.

Saturday, visitors will park at the waterfront and cross the street to a sidewalk south of the car wash. Eventually the trail will go under the bridge.

The path continues along Ebey Slough past the city’s water treatment plant. Red and green grapes have been planted so they will grow up the cyclone fence surrounding the treatment facility.

“That’s a lot of grapes,” Ballew said, joking it could be enough for a winery. Trail users will be able to snack on the grapes when they are ripe. Ballew said he hopes the local art community eventually could provide works to also separate the trail from the treatment plant.

The trail continues around a bend to picturesque Regan’s Harbor. A levy across from the harbor that separates the Qwuloot Estuary from the treatment plant eventually will be paved to provide another access route for the trail along Sunnyside Boulevard. In that same area is a bench to rest on and admire the view.

Continuing on there is an area set aside for an outdoor classroom. City leaders envision school classes will go to the area to study the environment.

The 12-foot-wide trail ends at where that dike was breached more than a year ago, allowing the estuary to be flooded with a mixture of fresh- and saltwater.

A trail on the opposite side also has been paved out to the breach. That trail is extended from Harborview Park, and also will open to the public Saturday.

Ballew took some downtown merchants on a pre-opening visit to the estuary. He said they were excited about the potential for bringing visitors to the area.

The project was made possible through a partnership with the Tulalip Tribes, Washington Recreation Conservation Office and Aquatic Lands Enhancement Account.