Trail riders

Rob Drenberg of Cle Elum, left, and Gaylord Perkins, of Granger, start riding toward the John Wayne Trail at the Kittitas Valley Event Center on Monday during the 35th John Wayne Pioneer Wagons trail ride. 

Organizers of the annual John Wayne Trail cross-state ride say they won’t stay in Ellensburg in the future after the Kittitas Reclamation District didn’t allow access to an easement for safety reasons.

About a hundred riders stayed overnight Sunday at the Kittitas Valley Event Center with plans of using a KRD easement to cross Interstate 90.

However, when riders went on the trail Monday morning, they found a gate they’ve used in the past locked and were told to take an alternate route.

Urban Eberhart, Kittitas Reclamation District manager, said the board decided last fall not to allow anyone to use that easement, which isn’t part of the John Wayne Trail.

The reason for the change is because of how dangerous that particular easement is, going alongside a siphon that sucks water several hundred feet per second under Interstate 90. Access to the easement allowed riders to use the trestle near Renslow to cross the interstate.

“If someone were to be riding … a horse and the horse bucks them off, they would be swept in there,” he said. “There’s no way out and they would die.”

He said KRD wasn’t just concerned about liability, but for the safety of the riders.

Eberhart said KRD left messages for organizers explaining why they couldn’t use the easement, but organizers never got the messages.

The ride

This is the 35th year for the cross-state ride. About 90 people are traveling from Easton to Tekoa on horseback and in wagons, using the former railroad line.

Riders wouldn’t have stayed at the fairgrounds if they knew they couldn’t use that particular easement, said Darlene Brady, president of the John Wayne Pioneer Wagons and Riders Association.

“I’m embarrassed,” she said. Brady said that many of the riders were from out of Washington and that KRD should apologize for the snafu.

Brady said organizers were told last week they could use the easement, that the organization is insured and would sign liability waivers.

Riders have used the easement in the past, which is why Brady was shocked at the change.

Eberhart said the John Wayne Trail riders were not the first to be told they couldn’t use the easement since the change.

Brady said she was concerned that the new route riders needed to take included a 4-mile stretch of county blacktop.

Cars would be whizzing past younger kids on horseback, she said.

“We wouldn’t be upset, but on Tuesday they said it was OK,” she said.

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