Pierce County News

1. Ernie Bay honored for Foothill Trails leadership

Eighteen years ago, Ernie Bay determined that Pierce County’s fledgling Foothills Rails-to-Trails project needed help and enlisted in the cause.

Today, the Foothills Trail is a recreational jewel for residents of the Orting/South Prairie/Buckley area, and the project is progressing toward Wilkeson and Puyallup/Sumner with much community support. Bay, retired superintendent of the Washington State University Research and Extension Center in Puyallup, stepped down as the first and only president of the Foothills Rails-to-Trails Coalition this spring. Pierce County Executive John Ladenburg and the County Council marked the milestone by honoring Bay with a proclamation at a recent council meeting.

“So often it is key citizens like Ernie Bay who make things happen in our society. He is an example of what citizens can do if they believe in something and get involved for the long term. This individual has made a positive contribution that will benefit future generations in this county, and I want to extend my special thanks,” Ladenburg said.

Councilmember Calvin Goings and other council members also praised Bay’s leadership on the Foothills Trail and other trail projects. “Ernie is a visionary leader on trail issues, and we are a better county because of his work,” Goings said.

Jan Wolcott, Pierce County Parks and Recreation Director, was part of the small group that formed the coalition, along with Bay and the late Dr. Douglas Tait of Buckley. In the late 1980s and early 1990s the county’s trail creation and development efforts were being strongly opposed by Citizens Against the Trail, led by Mary Harris, who owned property adjoining the Burlington Northern right of way upon which the trail was to be built. Thanks in large part to the coalition’s support, the trail project overcame lawsuits, countywide votes and other obstacles. “Ernie’s participation with the coalition has been amazing,” Wolcott said. “He provided outstanding leadership to a very effective organization.”

Bay responded, “It has been a tremendous adventure. I’ve met wonderful people, and I’ve had great support from the council and executive. And, I can’t say enough about Jan Wolcott. No trail project could have a better public official as partner than Jan. But my greatest reward is to go out on the trail at any hour, any day and share the joy that people of all ages are experiencing.”

He said his only regret is that Dr. Tait, who died in 2003, wasn’t able to share the recognition. “It was truly his vision to start the Foothill Trail movement. If not for him, I probably wouldn’t be standing here today,” Bay said.