Realizing the Vision: An Active Transportation Greenway Network
Development of the Sound to Olympics Trail (STO) has been in the making for over two decades. With the dedicated work of many community leaders, the STO is progressively becoming the reality.
For Kitsap County as a whole, the STO will connect both the Bainbridge and Kingston ferry terminals with the Hood Canal Bridge, where it will meet the popular Olympic Discovery Trail on the Olympic Peninsula.
The vision is a protected, multi-use regional trail for people of all ages and abilities. This includes those walking, running, and bicycling, as well as rolling with wheelchairs, electric scooters, strollers, and luggage. Equestrians will use some sections, mainly in the Port Gamble vicinity.
On Bainbridge the STO will form the spine for a trail network along SR 305 linking neighborhoods, parks, businesses, transit, ferries, and other destinations between the ferry terminal in Winslow and the Agate Pass Bridge.
Part and parcel of the STO vision is a greenway, with native trees, understory, and fields of grass forming continuous wildlife habitat where people connect with nature.
History of the STO
In 2006, on recommendation of the Non-Motorized Transportation Advisory Committee, with Council support, the City of Bainbridge Island led the creation of the STO by submitting the concept to the Puget Sound Regional Council, making it eligible for federal funding through competitive grants. In 2011 Kitsap County adopted the North Kitsap String of Pearls Trail Plan as developed by the North Kitsap Trails Association, providing the route of the STO, including both Bainbridge and Kingston branches.
SR 305 Corridor Studies led by Kitsap Transit in the last decade include the STO in plans for the future improvements, as does the current $36.8 million dollar WSDOT Connecting Washington set of projects between Poulsbo and the Bainbridge ferry terminal.
On Bainbridge, a series of successful grant applications resulted in construction of the STO Winslow Connector completed in 2018, and of the Olympic Drive project in 2020. These were highly competitive grants. Successes were due to close collaboration between the COBI Non-Motorized Transportation Advisory Committee and COBI Public Works staff—with support of the City Council and Administration.
The STO Winslow Connector—a Model for Future Phases
The Winslow Connector is the first fully constructed segment of the STO. It runs up the east side of SR 305 from Winslow Way to High School Road. Already heavily used and continuing to grow in popularity, it has become a linear park in the heart of Winslow.
Donor funded greenway work through the Bainbridge Island Parks Foundation continues the removal of invasive plants such as scotch broom, ivy and blackberry, as well as augmenting the extensive native plantings from the original construction.
New accessible short-cuts to the STO Winslow Connector have now been constructed: at the Sterling Building by Winslow Way, and at Bainbridge Parks’ John Nelson Trail. These are in addition to the Gwenlen Trail, which links to Cave Avenue, and in turn via another trail to Ferncliff Avenue.
Next steps: A Growing Network for Walking, Cycling, and Rolling
As new “connector” segments are added, the STO will continue linking to neighborhoods, businesses, parks, schools, and other community destinations via our growing network of trails and low volume roads.
The next segment of the STO will be the Sakai Pond Connector to be constructed starting just north of High School Road on the west side of SR 305. It will link to Sakai Park, the Bainbridge Aquatic Center, Bainbridge Youth Services, and then go through the Bainbridge School District complex to the Sportsman Road / New Brooklyn intersection. “Dana’s Trail,” memorializing community leader, Dana Berg, will be at the center of these added links.
These new links provide safe and active routes to Bainbridge High, Ordway, Woodward, and Sakai Schools.
Continuing northward to Sportsmens Club Road will be the Coppertop Connector, connecting that business park and the North Town Woods neighborhood into the network. Going still further north to Koura will be the Meigs Ponds Connector, tying in with the Parks District’s Meigs Farm Park and intersecting with the Parks District’s Cross-Island Trail.
The planned STO route continues northward along SR 305 providing a regional trail and greenway to the Agate Pass Bridge. Beyond Bainbridge, there are already sections of the STO in Poulsbo and Port Gamble, with others funded for construction, and still others with completed feasibility studies
A Source of Community Resilience
With the COVID-19 pandemic keeping people close to home, many are finding the STO a great place to get outside in nature. The STO will also serve as critical infrastructure in case of a disaster, such as a major earthquake, when roads may be impassable to motor vehicles. The Bainbridge Fire Department already uses trail maps to locate access alternatives when responding to emergencies.
With Bainbridge Island’s plans to reduce carbon emissions by 90 percent by 2045 and in the midst of planning a more sustainable transportation system, the STO will play a key role in helping people ditch their cars for shorter trips in favor of more attractive and convenient options for walking, cycling, and rolling.
City, County, Regional, and National Partners helping Realize the Vision
Bainbridge now has many partners helping plan and fund our STO Trail and Greenway.
The Bainbridge Island Parks Foundation is playing a key role in greenway enhancement of the STO Winslow Connectors scenic arboreal corridor, as well as assisting with creating easements or purchases creating the best route for next phases, and to connect with nearby neighborhoods and destinations.
The North Kitsap Trails Association (NKTA) has served as an umbrella cross-jurisdictional non-profit organization supporting and planning for the STO across Kitsap County for over a decade and a half. This is similar to the role the Peninsula Trails Coalition has played in the development of the Olympic Discovery Trail in Jefferson and Clallam Counties.
The Leafline Trails Coalition has been created to support development of our regional trail system connecting the four Central Puget Sound Counties: King, Kitsap, Pierce, and Snohomish.
The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) is leading the creation of the Great American Rail Trail. The RTC has designated the STO between Winslow and the Hood Canal Bridge to be the official route of this cross-country regional trail linking Washington, D. C. to the Pacific Ocean at La Push, Washington State.