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Equestrian community welcomes new SR 203 crossing

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FALL CITY - Horseback riders in the Valley can ride a little easier in the saddle now thanks to a new equestrian crossing near Fall City.

On July 2, county officials and horse lovers from around the Valley officially cut the ribbon on a new equestrian crossing at State Route 203 (SR 203) just north of Fall City. The crossing will allow riders to cross the road safely by warning drivers with a posted sign and by allowing riders to visually gauge oncoming traffic.

"We have been waiting for this for 20 years," said Bud Fleek, treasurer of the Raging River Riders, a Valley equestrian group.

Fleek said the crossing has been a long time coming. He said many riders will park at the Fall City Park, where the Raging River Riders have had an arena since 1983, and take their horses across SR 203 to the Snoqualmie Valley Trail system that can lead riders as far as Monroe in one direction or Cle Elum in another. The beauty of the trail and the proliferation of horses in the Valley have made the trek popular.

"I go by there [Fall City Park] on a daily basis and see [horse] trailers," Fleek said.

Those first few steps across SR 203 have been dangerous, though. The road had a speed limit of 55 mph and riders heading east across it had to gauge traffic with limited sight due to a curve in the highway and vegetation blocking the view of oncoming traffic.

"I've seen people start across and then turn around in the middle of the road to come back," Fleek said.

The equestrian community enlisted the help of King County Councilman David Irons, who represented Fall City at the time, to get some kind of horse crossing on the road. Irons worked to get something done at the crossing and eventually handed the task over to Councilwoman Kathy Lambert, who took over Iron's area after the county's district lines were redrawn two and a half years ago.

Despite delays, the appropriated money for the crossing survived the state budget process multiple times and work began earlier this year. The state installed two horse-crossing signs and posted a new speed limit of 45 mph. It also cut back vegetation to give riders a better view of oncoming traffic and Puget Sound Energy agreed to allow riders to ride on a public utilities easement it owns on the other side of SR 203.

"It has made all the difference," Fleek said.

The crossing is one more link in what many hope will become a prominent Valley trail. Parts of a trail exist in the Preston and Fall City communities, but there have been issues about developing the trail due to the fact that part of it goes by private property along the Raging River.

Irons said the idea of developing the trail has a lot of support among Fall City and Preston residents and he hopes future meetings with property owners along the Raging River will build up more momentum to complete it.

"We are going to make progress," Irons said.

Ben Cape can be reached at (425) 888-2311 or by e-mail at ben.cape@valleyrecord.com.

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