Plans for Eastside Rail Corridor gathering steam

  • Written by Sarah DeVleming, UW News Lab
The Eastside TRailway Alliance has big plans to breathe new life into the semi-deserted Eastside Rail Corridor, a 44-mile train corridor that runs from Renton in the south to Snohomish in the north.

Currently, the corridor is used to transport freight only a couple times a week, according to Bruce Agnew, director of the Cascadia Center for New Development.

However, the rail corridor could become booming again if all goes according to plan for the Eastside TRailway Alliance. It is hoping to secure $6.2 million in public and private funds to rehabilitate the 15-mile stretch of tracks from Woodinville to Snohomish. This upgrade would mean expanded freight operations, as well as a proposal for an excursion train.

Eastside Community Rail, supported by the Eastside TRailway Alliance, would sponsor the excursion train.

Kathy Cox, excursion train managing director for Eastside Community Rail, said the train would be called the Bounty of Washington: Tasting Train.

“It will celebrate local food, wine and stories [of the region],” Cox said. “It will be a taste festival on a train.”

The Bounty of Washington would run along with Eastside Rail Corridor tracks through Snohomish and Woodinville.

Eastside Community Rail believes that an excursion train would bring people and business into the Woodinville area.

“There used to be a formal excursion train, The Spirit of Washington Dinner Train,” Cox said.

The Bounty of Washington would offer a similar experience, and the majority of local businesses are warming up to the idea, Cox said.

According to Cox, 92 percent of wineries in Washington that responded to a poll sponsored by Eastside Community Rail support the Bounty of Washington, thinking it would be a good business venture.

However, the city of Kirkland has a different idea regarding what to do with its 5.75-mile segment of the tracks: It wants to build an interim trail of gravel on the preexisting rail bed.

According to David Godfrey, transportation engineering manager for the city, Kirkland wants to make use of the tracks as soon as possible.

“We feel like [a gravel trail is] what best fits our vision for the corridor,” Godfrey said. “Nobody is coming forward for any kind of use of the rails. … Nobody said ‘here is an actual proposal we have.’”

The stretch of tracks in Kirkland currently attracts walkers and hikers. A gravel trail would enhance the walking space.

The city plans to build the trail in gravel rather than cement so it will not be permanent, in case the rail segment will need to be rebuilt in the future, Godfrey said.

Kirkland is moving along with the gravel trail plan quickly.

A bid opening has been scheduled to see if any contracting companies could take on the project.

“If they’re in an appropriate range, we can move forward,” Godfrey said.

The city believes that if a gravel trail were put in over the tracks, it would attract new businesses to the area.

If the trail grew in popularity, Kirkland believes businesses would want to set up shop nearby, therefore creating more jobs.

The Eastside TRailway Alliance, however, disagrees. Karen Guzak, mayor of Snohomish and co-chair of the Alliance, believes that updating the rail line — including the segment in Kirkland — would be more beneficial than a gravel interim trail.

“I think there will be some jobs [generated from the trail] but I don’t think there will be nearly the number of jobs if there was a rail line,” Guzak said.

She also sees other benefits to leaving Kirkland’s rail segment in place for the time being.

“We wish that they would leave the rail there so we could do a regional study,” Guzak said. “We also see long-term commuter potential.”

According to Agnew, director of the Cascadia Center, the rail could also be used to transport construction materials to explore “temporary repurposing” of the corridor.

“The rail corridor could be repurposed by bringing construction material in … and taking it back out in a closed loop recycle,” Agnew said. “That would reduce costs to taxpayers.”

In addition, transporting any material by rail is more environmentally friendly, according to Agnew.

Transporting construction material by double dump trucks requires a large quantity of diesel fuel and emits pollutants into the air.

“We can improve air quality and public health by using trains for these construction projects,” Agnew said.

The trail itself has been around for over 100 years.

Previously owned by the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, the rail corridor was purchased by the Port of Seattle in 2009 for $81 million.

The Kirkland segment, formally called the Cross Kirkland Corridor, was purchased from the Port of Seattle in 2011 for $5 million.

Regardless of what will ultimately happen to the Kirkland rail segment, the Eastside TRailway Alliance is hoping to get enough funds to rehabilitate the rail corridor from Woodinville to Snohomish by next year.

“I’m not very optimistic we will get all of [the money] by this year,” Guzak said.

Once the funds are in place and the rail corridor is updated, including rehabilitation of bridges that the rail line crosses, the focus will be shifting to the Bounty of Washington tasting train.

If Kirkland does not turn its rail segment into a gravel trail, Cox hopes that one day the Bounty of Washington will go through the city as well.

“We don’t want Kirkland to build over it,” Cox said. “We want to start the excursion service there, too.”

The next meeting of the Eastside TRailways Alliance is scheduled for Thursday, April 4, from 5 to 7 p.m. and will be hosted by the City of Snohomish at Angel Arms Works in Snohomish. Angel Arms Works is located at 230 Avenue B at Third Street in Snohomish. Please RSVP for the April meeting to Cascadia Center at (206) 292-0401 or by Fax: (206) 682-5320.

Mark March 30 on your calendar to celebrate King County’s long-sought-after acquisitions along nearly 20 miles of the Eastside Rail Corridor. These acquisitions are an important step in preserving the Corridor for multiple near- and long-term uses. The open house celebration event is scheduled alongside the corridor:
• When: Saturday, March 30, noon. – 2 p.m.
• noon -1 p.m. – officials’ comments
• 1 p.m. - 2 p.m. – social program
•Where: Seahawks Headquarters/Training Facility at Virginia Mason Athletic Center, 12 Seahawks Way, Renton
Open house activities will include short tours of a Corridor section using a hi-rail vehicle provided by Sound Transit. Snacks and refreshments will be provided. More information about the effort to preserve and develop the Corridor for multiple uses can be found at: Please contact Glynnis Vaughan at (206) 296-1980 with questions.

Tickets for Passport and RESERVE on sale

  • Written by Deborah Stone
Passport courtesy 1
File Photo Signs pointed the way to the wineries taking part in last year’s Passport to Woodinville.
Passport to Woodinville, now in its 11th year, has become a well-respected and highly popular wine event.

“Food & Wine Magazine” regards it as one of “America’s 50 Most Amazing Wine Experiences.”

The two-day open house draws wine aficionados from all around Washington, as well as from neighboring states and even Canada.

In 2012, Passport attracted approximately 1,800 guests, and organizers predict a similar turnout this year.

Sponsored by Woodinville Wine Country and its partners, Passport offers wine lovers the opportunity to experience the area’s booming wine scene.

Nearly 40 different wineries participate in the event, opening their doors to attendees to showcase their wines.

Visitors, armed with special Passport wineglasses, are invited to tour as many of the participating establishments as they desire over the course of a weekend.

“Every winery has something special going on — be it a new release, an older vintage or a barrel sample,” says Jamie Peha, public relations spokesperson for the event. “Typically, the winemakers are around as well so you can meet them. Some wineries offer entertainment, some offer food and many are offering great incentives to purchase wine. It’s a great time to stock up the wine cellar. I also think it’s fun to be out and about and see others going from winery to winery. It creates its own excitement.”

For the wineries, it’s a great marketing opportunity, notes Peha, as it provides a chance to make people more aware of their name brand and expose them to the quality of their wines.

“Woodinville benefits from the marketing and advertising of the event as well,” she adds. “It puts Woodinville on the map as a tourist or visitor destination — there is a reason to come here. And then once guests are in town, they are also stopping to eat, get coffee and see what else goes on in Woodinville.”

Peha emphasizes that this area now has almost 100 wineries and tasting rooms, offering a wide array of tasting opportunities, from established wineries like Chateau Ste. Michelle and Columbia, to early boutique wineries such as Facelli and DeLille.

Then there’s the growing warehouse district where visitors can park their cars and find dozens of wineries and tasting rooms within easy walking distance.

“And we also now have several Eastern Washington wineries that have opened satellite tasting rooms here, such as Dusted Valley and J. Bookwalter,” she comments. “Woodinville Wine Country is really a microcosm of the whole state’s wine industry, featuring wineries from Walla Walla, Red Mountain, Yakima and more.”

A new exclusive event has been added this year in advance of Passport, which will especially appeal to wine aficionados seeking to taste a top tier selection of Woodinville wines.

Woodinville RESERVE will showcase 90+ rated wines and small production bottlings too limited for review.

“The idea for RESERVE came about after a few years of members talking about all the fantastic 90+ scores that Woodinville wineries receive and the sheer quality of wine in this community,” explains Peha. “This is a way to showcase the quality and really allow the public an opportunity to try these highly rated wines in one location.”

She adds, “The wines that will be poured are available to purchase through the individual wineries. Many of the wines are great finds and are in limited production. You won’t find this much great wine in one place very often so it’s a rare occurrence. Plus, you will get to meet the winemakers in many cases.”

Guest chefs from some of Woodinville’s well-known eateries will be on-hand at the event to serve up delicious bites.

Participating restaurants include Italianissimo, Barking Frog, Purple Café and Wine Bar, Station Pizzeria, Twisted Café, Le Petit Terroir and Pasta Nova.

Tickets to Woodinville RESERVE also include admission to both days of Passport.

“We’d love to see a full house for RESERVE,” comments Peha. “We want guests to be blown away by the quality of what they are able to taste at this event.”

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit

What: Passport to Woodinville
When: Saturday, April 20 – Sunday, April 21, noon – 4 p.m.
Where: Over 40 participating Woodinville wineries
Cost: $75 for two-day pass; $65 Sunday-only pass

What: Woodinville RESERVE, a new evening tasting event showcasing top-rated wines and small production bottlings too limited for review, along with guest chefs from well-known Woodinville eateries.
When: Friday, April 12, 7-9:30 p.m.
Where: Columbia Winery in Woodinville
Cost: $75 for RESERVE only; $125 includes admission to RESERVE and a two-day ticket to Passport

Woodinville farm, Duvall dairy making cheese

  • Written by Hal Luhn, Woodinville Weekly staff
chef sheesher
Courtesy Photo Brian Scheehser, executive chef of the Trellis Restaurant in Kirkland, grows produce and herbs on his Woodinville farm. He supplies not only the Trellis Restaurant but the Cherry Valley Dairy.
Have you ever heard of blueberry basil cheese? How about carrot nasturtium cheese? These are new, real cheeses. Executive Chef Brian Scheehser of the Trellis Restaurant in the Heathman Hotel in Kirkland has partnered with master cheese-maker Blain Hages of Cherry Valley Dairy in Duvall to develop and produce five cheese varieties, each of which uses produce and herbs grown on Chef Scheehser’s Woodinville farm.

“Our goal is to incorporate as many locally grown ingredients as possible into all the dishes we serve at Trellis,” said Chef Scheehser. “We see creating our own line of cheeses with garden-grown ingredients as the natural next step and are extremely proud to partner with Blain and Cherry Valley on this project.”

In addition to the two cheeses above, three more cheeses — lavender rubbed aged jack, caraway and farm inspired pepper-jack have been created for the partnership. Cherry Valley Dairy, an artisan dairy, has been supplying milk to several Seattle-area cheese makers for years, and a recent renovation made it possible for cheese and butter to be made. On March 9, Cherry Valley Dairy and Trellis held a special unveiling of the new cheeses at the restaurant. The cheeses will be featured daily as special menu items to highlight the unique flavor profile of each variety. Scheehser has been featured at the famed James Beard House in New York City as part of its Best Hotel Chefs in America series, 2008.

In 2005, Gretchen Garth, founder and board president of 21 Acres, purchased Cherry Valley Dairy and kept it alive as a milk supplier to Beecher Handmade Cheese in downtown Seattle. Garth is still supplying them.
The dairy, under Garth’s direction, has since been refurbished. It now has a new cheese production floor, anaerobic digester that provides power to the facilities, and a new staff with pedigrees to match.
Cherry Valley Dairy acquired head cheese-maker Blain Hages in 2010 and dairy manager AnnMarie Stickney, a veteran employee from Beechers Handmade Cheese and a WSU graduate  who keeps the herd healthy and the fields fruitful.
Johnny Lechero is the dairy parlor technician and farm mechanic.
The Cherry Valley Dairy production floor is in Duvall. Their earlier cheese and butter beginnings are available in Seattle’s Pike Place Market, 21 Acres in Woodinville and at the Duvall Farmers Market (

Community support gives Owen family strength and encouragement

  • Written by Deborah Stone
Owens Famioly 2
Courtesy Photo The Owen family at the wedding of Steven and Jaime: front row, left to right: Steven and Jaime Mayer, Jessie and Cheryl; back row: Tim and Jeremy.
Life as the Owen family knew it changed irrevocably in a split second one late December afternoon, proving once again the fragility of human existence.

The Bothell couple, Tim and Cheryl Owen, along with their daughters Jessie, 27, and Jaime, 25, son Jeremy, 22, and son-in-law Steven Mayer, 25, were headed over Stevens Pass when a 125-foot old-growth tree, laden with wet snow, crashed onto their vehicle.

Cheryl and Tim were killed instantly.

Medics extracted Jessie, Jaime and Steven, who were trapped in the back seat, and took them to Central Washington Hospital.

Later, they were transferred to Harborview.

Jeremy, though bruised, was released after being treated.

Jaime, a law student at Seattle University and her husband Steven, a Microsoft employee, suffered extensive leg, arm and pelvic fractures, as well as serious internal injuries, while Jessie, a sixth grade teacher at Frank Love Elementary, sustained a catastrophic spinal cord injury and is currently paralyzed from the shoulders down.

Four Owen kids
Courtesy Photo Left to right: Steven Mayer, Jessie Owen, Jaime Mayer, Jeremy Owen
Several months have gone by since the accident and after undergoing multiple surgeries, Jaime and Steven are now recovering together and receiving extensive physical therapy at Kindred, a skilled nursing facility.

Their prognoses are good, as neither suffered a spinal cord injury, but the recovery process is slow and rife with challenges.

Jaime was recently cleared to bear weight on her left leg and is now standing up and practicing walking with the help of parallel bars and her physical therapist. She will eventually progress to the next step – using a walker.

“The doctors say I should make a full recovery, but they can’t be 100 percent,” says Jaime. “They tell me I will be able to do what I used to do, but to what extent is the question.”

She notes that her husband Steven is progressing, too, but hasn’t been cleared to bear weight on either of his legs yet.

“He has similar injuries to mine, but he also broke his back,” she adds.

Currently, Steven is using a wheelchair to get around. The couple has been informed that in the future they will most likely return to Harborview for a few more months of inpatient rehab, followed by several months of outpatient therapy.

Jessie, who underwent two months of intensive inpatient rehabilitative therapy at Harborview Medical Center, recently joined her sister and brother-in-law at the nursing facility.

According to Jaime, Jessie is regaining some function and is now able to lift her arms up to her face and turn her body on a bed.

“She’s a fighter,” says Jaime. “She is determined that she will walk again and we believe she will get it back, but when, we don’t know. What we do know is that Jessie is very determined and she is doing awesome in her therapy. Her spirits are good and she is staying positive. We’re all trying to stay positive.” She adds, “We owe our strength to all the support we have received from family members, friends, neighbors, co-workers, employers, the community and even complete strangers. Everyone has been so incredible, so amazing.”

She goes on to explain how devoted and thoughtful people have been, from sending cards and gift cards to making meals and donating to the family’s established relief fund.

A team of caregivers, consisting of family and close friends, continues to take shifts at the hospital and nursing facility to ensure that Jessie, Jaime and Steven always have companionship and an advocate to look after their needs and best interests.

Others have been looking after Jeremy, who has since returned to Eastern Washington University where he is a student.

However, he makes frequent visits back to the area to check on his sisters, both of whom he feels very protective to and who mean the world to him. The outpouring of support doesn’t surprise Christy Jennings, a neighbor and longtime friend of the Owen family.

“It’s a testament to what this family has meant to this community,” she says. “Tim and Cheryl were pillars of the community. They were very involved in everything and especially their kids’ activities.”

She notes that Tim, an insurance agent, served as a Northshore soccer and softball coach, and Cheryl was a manager at Amazon, had worked for Microsoft and was previously a community college consultant.

“Tim and Cheryl gave of themselves,” adds Jennings, “and it’s fitting that the community is now giving back to them. They are giving these kids the strength and ability to go on in life after such a terrible tragedy.”

Jaime, acting as spokesperson for the family, says that there aren’t enough words to express the amount of gratitude and appreciation she and her husband, and her sister and brother feel toward the community. She makes special mention of all the people who have honored her parents’ memories at the vigil held shortly after the accident, as well as via messages in cards and on the designated blog that Jennings created to keep others informed of the situation.

“These memories and stories are so important to us,” she comments, “and we are so grateful that people took the time to share them with us. They mean so much to us and we will treasure them. Thank you.”

Two funds have been established to help the Owen family with their medical expenses. Donations can be made to:
The Owen Mayer Relief Fund
2020 Maltby Rd.  Ste. 7 PMB 298
Bothell, WA 98021
HelpHOPELive  (Note in memo section of check, “In Honor of Jessie Owen”)
Two Radnor Corporate Center
100 Matsonford Rd., Suite 100
Radnor, PA 19087
This organization was chosen by Jessie in part because it assures fiscal accountability of funds raised and tax deductibility for donors. Donors can be sure that funds donated will be used only to pay or reimburse medi
cally-related expenses

Para-cyclist aims for World Championships, Olympic medal

  • Written by Deborah Stone
Aaron Keith
Courtesy Photo Pictured here in the center, Dr. Aaron Keith, DC, rides in a para-cycling event.
The gift of a Nishiki Olympic-12 road bike for his 13th birthday was a turning point in Dr. Aaron Keith’s life.

Racing became the local man’s passion, which he took up in earnest during his senior year in high school.

At that time, his biggest influence was Greg Lemond, who had made a great come-from-behind victory in the Tour de France.

Keith became more involved in the sport, racing both for his collegiate team at University of Virginia, as well as his club team based in Charlottesville, Va.

He competed in 30 to 40 events per year, and in 1993, he was upgraded to the top amateur level and won the Best All-Around Rider in the state of Virginia.

Everything was going according to plan, but it all changed on September 1 of that year.

While riding his mountain bike with teammates in the mountains of central Virginia, Keith had a terrible accident.

“I fractured my 12th thoracic vertebra like a windshield,” he explains. “I underwent surgery to repair the spine and then spent about 18 months dependent upon a wheelchair.”

He adds, “I was left with residual paralysis, mostly below my knees and hip muscles, and have to wear an ankle-foot orthotic to help stabilize my legs for walking.”

The accident inspired Keith to become a chiropractor, which brought him out to the Northwest to pursue education and training in this field.

Later, at the encouragement of one of his chiropractic patients, he became involved in Para-Olympic cycling. He explains that after doing some research and analyzing the results of past years in the sport, he felt he could compete with para-cyclists based on the speed the riders achieved in the Time Trial discipline.

One question remained. “I didn’t know what category I would be placed in due to the permanent disability I sustained,” he says. “I communicated with several para-cyclists and the national team coach, but no one could tell me with any certainty what category I fit in.”

The dilemma was all too familiar with Keith.

He was no longer in a wheelchair so he should be “normal” and be able to walk and move like everyone else.

“But, how do you explain to someone when you trip and fall down over cracks in the sidewalk?” he asks. “How does someone understand that I cannot stand on my toes or heels:”

The issue of proper placement continued until an orthopedic specialist, physiatrist and physical therapist examined Keith, and together they reached a decision regarding his classification as a para-cyclist.

Due to the neurological deficits affecting both sides of his lower extremities, he was categorized as a C1 athlete.

“This is the most disabled category that is still able to ride a bicycle,” explains Keith. “There are categories for disabled athletes who have to ride a trike or three-wheeled cycle due to extreme balance issues, as well as those athletes with more severe paralysis and amputations who use a hand cycle for competition.”

Last year, the local doctor, who owns Woodinville Pain Relief Clinic, started racing in para-cycling events.

He won all three national championship races, as well as both the time trial and road race at the World Cup event in Quebec, Canada, in July.

He notes that the data coaches and team selectors use to determine a cyclist’s placement is his/her average speed in the time trials.

In both of the above events, Keith performed well enough to qualify for the 2013 U.S. Paralympics Cycling National Team.

Most of the race distances are 15 to 20 miles for the time trials and 35 to 40 miles for the road races.

“My quest involves winning world championships and an Olympic medal in Para-cycling,” says Keith. “I have to qualify each year for selection, not only for the national team, but also for the select group of riders that compete at the World Championships, as well as the even more select group for the Olympics every four years.”

He adds, “I will need to compete in at least six to seven different racing events each year that take place in different areas of the U.S. and across the world, as well as participate in training camps at the Olympic Training Centers in Chula Vista, Calif., and Colorado Springs. The time commitment for this schedule usually means four to five weeks of travel and competing away from the Seattle area.”

Currently, Keith’s training regimen involves spending an hour every weekday riding indoors and two to three hours on the weekend, either indoors or outdoors depending on the weather.

He also does strength training with an emphasis on core and postural work.

To be a successful racer, Keith notes that fitness is important, but he emphasizes that a rider also has to be able to read a race and know his/her strongest adversaries.

He adds, “You may be the strongest, fittest competitor in the race, but if you miss out on a couple of very strong riders working together, then you may not be able to catch them before the race is over. Sometimes, bicycle road racing can be thought of as a chess match while under duress. If you let your opponents take your queen early, you many never recover.”

Keith stresses the need to eat right before, during and after competition, as well as to hydrate properly due to the length of endurance required for the races.

He says, “You need to understand how your body will react to the elements, hot and cold, and you need to understand your body position on the bike — how will you be strong in and out of the saddle, in a sprint or on a climb, in and out of tight corners on a course that may or may not suit your skills.”

The first major test for Keith will be in Greenville, S.C., at a race that will determine who from the U.S. will go to the World Cup in Segovia, Spain in June.

The U.S. Road Championships in July in Madison, Wis., follow. This event will determine rider selection for the World Championships in Quebec, Canada.

Keith is determined to give it all he’s got in the hopes of attaining his goal.

“This quest is important to me on two levels,” he comments. “On a personal level, as an athlete, I want to go out and compete on the biggest stage —  Worlds and the Olympics. On another level, I want to bring awareness to the sport. Though there are thousands of para-cyclists around the world, there are only three to four hundred that compete around the U.S. I feel passionate about the sport and hopefully I will be able to inspire a few disabled, as well as able-bodied athletes, to compete on the bicycle.”

He adds, “There’s just not a lot of information available about para-cycling and para-athletics in general and I would like to help change this situation — to let disabled people know that there are ways to compete on whatever level you want.”

Keith feels he has a good chance to finish in the top three at the World Championships. He’s familiar with the course, which is a plus. “I’ve done it before,” he says, “and it’s very hilly, but it suits me. I am confident I can perform well on it.

“There’s just not a lot of information available about athletic endeavors for people with disabilities, and I want to help change this situation,” Keith explained.