Local lawmaker wants to make trails a tougher target for terrorists

Since Tuesday's terror attack in Manhattan, a local lawmaker is focusing on making King County's busy trails a tougher target for terrorists.

But it’s a huge job. All of King County's trails together would stretch to Portland.

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King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn's vision is to install barriers, bollards and even boulders in key spots along all of King County's trails, to make it impossible for someone in a vehicle to drive in.

As she walks the Burke-Gilman Trail every day, Kylie Waibel she says she recalls the haunting images of a terrorist killing people with little effort on a bike and pedestrian trail in New York.

“The attacks, they keep happening and at what point – what gives? I mean, what can we do to stop it? Just stop it?” said Waibel.

King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn hatched a big proposal the moment he saw the attack in New York.

“Let’s make our trail system a place where that can’t happen,” said Dunn.

His proposal? To protect anyone using Seattle and King County bike and pedestrian trails from invading cars and trucks, which would be an enormous effort.

He wants to plant heavy physical barriers along 175 miles of trails as soon as possible.

“My fear is the problem with what happened in New York. It gives people ideas – ‘Wow, that worked!’ (He) just rented a truck, off he went, eight people are dead tragically today. We want to make sure the easy targets are taken away,” said Dunn.

Dunn says those easy targets of terrorism have shown how vulnerable people really are all over the world when terrorists use cars and trucks as weapons. From London, to Barcelona, to Stockholm and here in the US, 37 people were killed in recent months in places which were supposed to be vehicle-free.

Dunn says the barriers could look like part of the landscape.

“And a boulder is big enough to stop a car, obviously, and you put them close enough together where a truck can’t drive through,” said Dunn.

He admits it would take tens of thousands of boulder barriers, and tens of millions of dollars to keep cars and trucks out of all the trails, but he says new federal money now being offered by Congress for projects like this will be spent in another part of the country if it's not used here.

“There are places where you can simply drive right onto the paved trail surface or to a gravel trail surface and do a lot of damage. I mean, the people walking trails, hiking on trails, biking on trails, they’re not expecting vehicles to be there. They’re not inside another vehicle where they have some protection,” said Dunn.

Dunn says the project could take at least five years to build out, and they could start with the busy Burke-Gilman trail, which would be welcome news for cyclists and walkers like Waibel.

This, for many people, is a mode of quickly and safely getting home or to and from work, you know? So I think that it’s money well spent,” said Waibel.

On Monday at 2 p.m., the proposal will be considered for a study, and then a proposal will be sent to Congress.

The plan is not Dunn’s first time working to counter terrorism. He’s also worked with the Department of Justice Terrorism unit, and he had top secret clearance, but he had that job long before there was any act of terrorism on a trail.