The Odessa Record -

John Wayne Trail establishes new tradition


December 28, 2017

--Photos courtesy of Ted Blaszak.

During summer weather, hikers walk the trail near the small farming town of Tekoa in the Palouse.

The Tekoa Trail & Trestle Association and the Rosalia Chamber of Commerce have begun what they hope will be greeting the new year with a new, uniquely Washington tradition of "Lights Across Washington."

This new annual goal is to have a large holiday light display in every community along the epic John Wayne Trail to celebrate the holidays and Washington's only cross-state trail. Each year we would partner with one or more of the 18 Washington towns and cities that the trail runs through to put on a great big beautiful holiday display.

This year Tekoa has decorated the trestle that hovers above the town, and Rosalia has the Big Bike.

The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission helped us to obtain the permits for both the Big Bike and the Tekoa Trestle holiday light displays, and we look forward to working with them in the future as the tradition expands to other towns along the trail.

The Big Bike was constructed out of thin rebar metal by Walla Walla based artist Charles Stanger. At 27.5 feet long and 14 feet tall, it is lit by more than 9,000 light bulbs. As a cycling enthusiast, Stanger is sharing his creation with the TTTA to raise awareness about the citizens of Eastern Washington who wish to see the John Wayne Pioneer Trail preserved and utilized in our community. Mr. Stanger is already at work to create another sculpture for the trail at a location yet to be determined.

Plans are in the works now for next year for the town of Malden to put on a display of its own (a giant water tower or lighting up the small trestle on the east side of town?). Rosalia is creating something new, but they won't say what yet. Tekoa hopes to stay on the trestle. Lind and Ellensburg might do something on their own and The Big Bike is scheduled to appear in Othello!

This tradition would be unique to Washington, as the trail is one of only two statewide trails in the nation (and we won't tell Missouri about it). And it's a tradition that could only be done on the John Wayne Trail.

The TTTA and the Rosalia Chamber of Commerce are hoping that this new holiday tradition can turn things around for the John Wayne Trail. The trail has long been under attack from 9th District legislators.

The "Big Bike" festooned with holiday lights is located on SR 195 between the northern and southern exits for Rosalia, 33 miles south of Spokane.

Yet the trail has become an important economic engine for several small farm towns in the Palouse. For 40 years, former railroad towns like Rosalia, Malden, Tekoa, Lind and others have seen their populations and economies dwindle. Our hope is that by encouraging the trail's repair and use by tourists we may be able to turn things around for our small farm towns.

Already a new, seasonal convenience store has opened in Malden due to the increase in bicycle tourism. Restaurants and stores in Tekoa and Rosalia have seen a recent uptick in business from more trail visitors. A new annual bike race across Washington has also begun.

The big draw is that the John Wayne trail is one of only two cross-state trails in America. You can take it from North Bend, Washington (28 miles southeast of Seattle) to the Idaho border in Tekoa. At 285 miles, it is an epic trail that begins in rich, forested land filled with lakes and rivers, then descends into the dramatic scablands scraped bare by ice-age floods and ends in the pastoral wonder of the Palouse – truly a ribbon of beauty across our state for all to enjoy. Simply the most pleasant way to cross Washington, via the John Wayne Trail.


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