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Bud Blancher Trail Dedicated Friday November 7, 2014
Photos and Story by Bob Walter...

     Eatonville has a new playground of sorts. The long-awaited Bud Blancher Trail, Phase One, was dedicated Friday afternoon, November 7, at the new trailhead on Weyerhaeuser Road East, just across Center Street from the Eagles Hall. About 50 people came for the ribbon-cutting. They were treated to the first look at a beautiful trailhead, inviting walkers, hikers and bicyclists to explore down the Bud Blancher Trail.

     Sharing the honor of cutting the ribbon to officially open the trail, from left to right: the late Bud Blancher’s niece, Dawn Pannell, former town planner Nick Bond, local contractor who built the trail Caleb Boettcher, former mayor Tom Smallwood, and Mayor Mike Schaub.

     Former mayor Tom Smallwood talked about the history of the Eatonville Regional Trail project, and those involved in the planning stages. He shared some of the highlights of Bud Blancher’s life, and his passion for bicycling, flying and hiking.
     Bud had logged thousands of miles biking the US and Europe, working at airports along the way, and had invented a highly popular and successful pilot’s harness for small aircraft through is business, Bud’s Aero Specialties.
     See former mayor Smallwood's dedication speech and learn more about Bud Blancher's history below the photos on this page.

     Current mayor Mike Schaub then recognized the funders for this project, including Blancher, who left a large donation through his will. He died November 20, 2007, while serving on the Eatonville Regional Trail Plan Advisory Committee.
     In 2010 the town accepted a gift of $221,607 from Rails-to-Trails Conservancy in partnership with Christine and Peter Koch, and the estate of Howard “Bud” Blancher. The second pedestrian bridge – this one over the Little Mashel River – was part of the stipulation of this donation. Tacoma Wheelmen Bicycle Club also donated $10,000 to the trail project.
    That second foot bridge is also completed. As the donors envisioned, the town is now connected to the  University  of  Washington Pack Forest’s vast trail network. Future extensions and linkups of the trail system to other communities are part of the plan.

     As soon as the speeches ended, hikers eagerly grabbed some of the refreshments, fruit and granola bars, provided by the town for the occasion, and hit the trail, which heads down a long, gentle slope toward the pedestrian bridge across the Mashel River. Newly-planted trees and large, attractive boulders show the way.

     The local student news team from Eatonville High School interview Eatonville resident and trail project contractor Caleb Boettcher and his wife, Sarah, at the dedication. Holding the mic is T.J. McCarthur and on camera is Daisy Newman, both students.

     There are 18 convenient parking stalls just above the large kiosk with regulations and an aerial trail map. Five cars were already parked there Sunday at around noon.

     On Sunday, two days after the dedication, numerous walkers and joggers were enjoying the Bud Blancher Trail. Some were hiking from the Smallwood Park side, and had not yet seen or known about the new trailhead that has recently sprouted, just ahead of them. Encountering the new bridge, with its quiet, peaceful, and now much more accessible view of the Mashel River, people were exclaiming about how the trail enhances the entire community.

     A walk down the trail begs for photographs. Here, you are approaching the Mashel River, and the first of two pedestrian bridges over rivers, in the 2.4 mile trail.

     Crossing the Mashel River from the north. The bridges are massive, and sturdy. They were shipped in sections and assembled on-site.

     A sandy beach beside the river, previously reached only by hikers using the more primitive trails of Smallwood Park. A former railroad bridge pier sat in the river at this crossing. It was removed as part of the project.

     Since rivers can be treacherous, parents may be interested to know the bridges have four massive beams for its railing, the highest one at about adult waist height. Above that is an even larger, glue-lam beam which reaches to a height of six feet, two inches. At each end are short rail fences on each side, discouraging walkers from descending to the river.

     The glue-lam beams of the pedestrian bridges are meant to last. Here’s a closeup of the beautifully-colored, preservative-impregnated wood. Each puncture shows where the preservative was shot into the wood.

     Lots of people, some with their dogs on leash, were using the new trail Sunday. Regulations require scooping after your pet.

Regulations at entrance to trail.

     Bigleaf maples, their bright yellow leaves fluttering by, added to the beauty of Eatonville’s new public trail, dedicated Friday.

Petit Truss Bridge...

     In 2009 Peter and Christine Koch from Bellevue donated $230,000 for construction of a foot bridge. Originally the truss bridge shown above was supposed to be built. However, plans changed because several of this type of bridge failed according to former town planner Nick Bond who attended the Blancher Trail dedication.  The change in bridge design is very attractive and blends into the natural world as opposed to the utilitarian truss bridge. See more about the Koch's donation and graphics Here.

Tom Smallwood Shared his Speech with ENN...

Trail Dedication

     Thank you to Mayor Schaub for letting me talk about the trail plan. Thank the Mayor for the completion of the trail. Thank Doug, Mike, Town staff for making the plan work and getting the trail completed. Thanks to Nick for all the work on the plan and the grants to get this Completed.

Eatonville Regional Trail Plan

   Technical Assistance

     Trail planning support and production of this document was provided by a grant of technical Assistance from the Rivers,
Trails, and Conservation Assistance (RTCA) program of the National Park Service. This assistance was requested by the Town of Eatonville through a written grant application. RTCA provides non-financial grants of technical planning assistance to communities working on local conservation and recreation projects. Assisting local Communities achieve their conservation and recreation goals is one way the National Park Service achieves its mission of extending the benefits of conservation and recreation to the nation and world.

Dedication - About Bud Blancher

    This plan is dedicated to the memory of Bud Blancher who made his home in Eatonville for nearly 30 years. Bud was an avid bicyclist, pilot, mechanic, and world traveler. In 1960, he spent 13 months riding around the perimeter of the United States on a ten-speed bicycle working at airports and other odd jobs to help finance his trip.
    Two years later he spent over a year in Europe, working and traveling over 10,000 miles riding a motor scooter and sleeping in a tent. When flying, Bud would frequently strap his bicycle to the wing strut of his plane in order to get to town from wherever he landed. Bud is best known for the development of a more comfortable shoulder harness for use in small airplanes. He first made one for himself, then a few of his friends, and soon Bud’s Aero Specialties (BAS Inc) was formed. BAS has sold over 12,000 harnesses all over the world.
     In January, 2007, Bud was asked to serve on the Advisory Committee for the development of this plan. He was an active member of the committee until he passed away at age 75 on November 20, 2007

Eatonville Regional Trail Plan Acknowledgements - 2009

Lead Agency -    Town of Eatonville, Tom Smallwood, Mayor

Planning Team - Bryan Bowden, National Park Service RTCA Program

                             Nick Bond, Town Planner

Advisory Committee

Bob Schaub                Eatonville Resident, Park Planning Commission and Park Volunteer

Bob Walter                  Eatonville Resident and South Pierce County Historical Society

Duane Emmons         University of Washington, Pack Forest

Bob Myrick                 Tacoma Wheelmen Bicycle Club and Mt. Tahoma Trail Association

Len Throop                 Eatonville Resident and Owner, Eatonville Outdoor

Dale Thompson         Eatonville Resident, Wildlife Artist and Naturalist

Eileen Finnigan         Tacoma/Pierce County Health Department

Bud Blancher             Eatonville Resident and Avid Bicyclist/Trail User

Eatonville Town Council

Bobbi Allison, Bruce Rath, James Valentine, Brenden Pierce, Rich Adams

Eatonville Planning Commission

Phil Beach, Chris Lambert, Elizabeth Harris, William Fitzer, Bob Schaub, Larry Frink, Paul Treyz

Footbridge for Trail System Finally Happening
Photos and Story by Bob Walter...

     September 10, 2014: The pedestrian bridge which will span the Little Mashel River as part of the new Eatonville trail system is nearly assembled. The bridge arrived in sections and is being bolted together by Boettcher and Sons Construction next to the river about a mile south of town. The bridge deck has not yet been installed. When fully assembled, the bridge will be lifted into place by a giant crane, and set on concrete footings yet to be poured.

     The foot bridges for the new trail system will each be 120 feet long. Once in place, the bridges, and the trail being constructed between them, will connect the town to the network of trails in 4,300-acre Pack Forest, which is part of the University of Washington.

Kids play on rocks near the river.

     The crystal clear waters of the Mashel River run through a channel that until recently had a huge concrete pier sitting  in it for decades. From this vantage point, you are looking south, with a portion of Smallwood Park in the distance. The pier had been part of the old railroad bridge used in the early part of the last century. Boettcher and Sons Construction, contractors on the Eatonville Trail project, removed the pier in sections a couple of weeks ago. The pedestrian footbridge is now being installed.

     (Publisher's note: The bridge was supposed to be built by 2010, but the $230,000 donated by Peter and Christine Kock in 2009 was not used for the bridge. It was used by former mayor Ray Harper for town business. Another trail bridge is scheduled to be built in the future. The same thing happened to many thousands of dollars donated in the name of Bud Blancher after his death. See Trail Money Misspent to learn more.)

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