Get Out Your Ice Skates

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When a young genius at City Hall helped launch a plan to complete the Burke-Gilman bike trail along the Ballard waterfront, he wrote that historic markers would be erected along the route to honor the maritime businesses that once operated beside the trail.

Two decades later, the maritime businesses are still there, both vibrant and stubborn enough to wage a battle that may be ending with a long elusive compromise agreed to by some members of the maritime business community, the City of Seattle and the Cascade Bicycle Club.

Mayor Ed Murray announced the framework agreement February 28, joined by city councilmembers, bicycle advocates and Ballard business representatives Warren Aakervik from Ballard Oil and Eugene Wasserman of the North Seattle Industrial Association. “Our maritime businesses are dependent on easy access to the water and roads, and this agreement gets us that,” said Aakervik. “This is a win for everyone.”

Added Blake Trask of the Cascade Bicycle Club: “To say we are elated is a vast understatement.”

But, while the compromise might make it seem like hell is freezing over, the political landscape remains slippery. Scott Anderson of the CSR Marine boatyard is angry the compromise route would still run past the driveway of his business and others along Shilshole. He worries about safety and liability issues and how he would replace the existing parking area used by his employees and customers.

If Anderson’s arguments sound familiar, they should. Aakervik started saying the same things back when welders were still investing in Ballard duplexes.

The outcome may be decided through final design work for parking and safety measures to protect truck drivers as well as cyclists and pedestrians. The City is scheduled to publish a final environmental impact statement in May.

While the compromise route still runs along most of Shilshole, it would veer up 24th Avenue NW to Market Street for the final stretch to the Ballard Locks, avoiding Pacific Fishermen Shipyard, Ballard Oil and other businesses west of 24th. The trail would be built along the stretch of the more heavily developed portion of Shilshole between 24th and the Ballard Bridge.

While not perfect, Tuesday compromise was a remarkable turn in an amazing saga. For decades, it seemed like Aakervik and the others were pushing back against the entire weight of City Hall. And, that’s because they were.