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*All San Juan County News

Posted on: February 15, 2023

County Begins Planning for Zylstra Lake Trail and Answers FAQs

Town to Zylstra Lake Updates

SAN JUAN COUNTY, WA. February 15, 2023 – San Juan County is eager to begin developing a plan for a multi-use trail connecting the Town of Friday Harbor to the Zylstra Lake Preserve. Recently awarded $5.28 million in federal transportation funds, the County is beginning the project by answering frequently asked questions, moving forward with preliminary project scoping, and accepting public input on the project webpage.  

“This project is in the very early, conceptual stages of development,” said Grant Carlton, the project’s manager and the County’s Management Analyst. “We really see this as an opportunity for the public to come together and shape what this trail could be.”  

Representative Rick Larsen (District 2) earmarked the funding from the Fiscal Year 2023 Omnibus Spending Package and visited the preserve on January 20, 2023 to discuss future hopes of safe, multi-modal transportation in the islands.  

“There’s already a lot of people who bike out here anyway – it's just that they’re biking on a County road with no median, no separation from cars – not all that safe,” said Larsen.   

The idea for a trail to Zylstra Lake was born out of multiple planning documents, meetings, and community surveys that identified the need for “a well-planned transportation system of multi-modal trails” that “connect people to places.” 

Zylstra Lake Preserve lies at the center of multiple corridors that have been identified as important opportunities to “promote nonmotorized transportation, provide safer conditions for biking and walking, and improve connectivity between popular sites,” according to multiple iterations of the County’s Parks Trails and Natural Areas Plan, which is now called the Recreation, Open Space, and Stewardship Plan. 

Among the Plan’s goals is to provide “a diversity of trail opportunities including hard- and soft-surfaced trails, point-to-point trails, loop trails, and trails with a variety of access points and lengths.” The proposed trail from the Town of Friday Harbor to the Zylstra Lake Preserve aims to achieve these long-established goals put forth by local land managers and members of the public.   

The County has answered a list of frequently asked questions, including “Why did the County select this project?”, “How is this project funded?”, “How will neighboring landowners be impacted?” and more. These answers are accessible on the project's 'Engage San Juan County' page, accessible here: 

See the timeline below to understand how the project has developed over time:  

2005: The County’s Parks and Recreation Plan identifies trails and bikeways as a critical issue. A survey of 5,000 random households and discovered that 82% of county residents “agreed” or “strongly agreed” that “trails and bikeways should be an integral part of transportation planning for the county.” 

2010: Citizen-driven trail groups identify priority corridors for future trail development. The County’s Parks, Trails, and Natural Areas (PTNA) Plan defined and identified the goal of many of these corridors is to promote non-motorized transportation, provide safer conditions for biking and walking, and improve connectivity between popular sites. 

2016: Multi-modal trails along island corridors (including corridors leading to Zylstra Lake) are identified once again as priorities in the PTNA Plan.  

2021: Congressman Rick Larsen’s office calls for Member Designated Project (MDP) submissions. Jurisdictions with specific highway and transit projects located in District Two were encouraged to apply. MDP funding seeks to further projects that benefit the communities they serve, are generally supported by local elected officials, are enumerated in adopted plans, and encompass a feasible and achievable timeline. 

2021: San Juan County identifies multi-modal trail to Zylstra Lake as worthy and applicable project for a MDP submission. The Zylstra Lake Shared Use Trail project has been enumerated in multiple iterations of adopted local planning documents, has an identified starting point and destination, and carries a theoretically achievable timeline. 

April 2021: The Town of Friday Harbor passes a resolution in general support of the project. 

April 2021: San Juan County approves a resolution in general support of the project. The Public Works Department presented a conceptual cost analysis of the project to Council. This estimate was used to understand the potential scope of the proposed project and was/is subject to change. The preliminary budget was created only for conceptual planning and grant writing purposes. The Council then signed a resolution in support of a Town to Zylstra Lake multi-modal trail.   

April 2021: San Juan County submits the Town to Zylstra Lake project proposal to Representative Rick Larsen’s Office. 

November 2022: San Juan County adopts the Recreation, Open Space and Stewardship (ROSS) Plan which continues to highlight the public’s interest in multi-modal trails. “One of the most pressing issues emerging over several years of community outreach is the need for non-motorized transportation connecting people to places,” the plan states.  

December 2022: Larsen Secures $31,529,221 for Fifteen Local Projects in Omnibus Spending Package. With the goal of supporting a cleaner, safer, and more accessible transportation network, Rick Larsen secured $5.28 million for a multi-modal trail from the Town of Friday Harbor to Zylstra Lake.  

January 2023: San Juan County begins project planning. Congressman Larsen visited Zylstra Lake and County employees start preparing to solicit public input on project design.   

Additional project information will be gathered on San Juan County’s new interactive web platform, Engage San Juan County. The platform is free and accessible to the public. To participate (sign-up for project updates, ask questions, etc.) make sure you're registered in the 'Engage San Juan County' platform: 

Contact: Grant Carlton, Management Analyst, 


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