More than 30 agencies that have partnered on the Blue Mountain Region Trails Plan will make a path to the Walla Walla County Fairgrounds later this month to receive the 2019 Washington Governor’s Smart Communities Smart Partnership Award.

Gov. Jay Inslee has announced the awards that recognize “achievements by local leaders who promote smart growth planning and projects that contribute to thriving communities, a prosperous economy, and sustainable infrastructure in Washington.”

“Creativity, collaboration and public engagement are key to ensuring that communities are successful in meeting future growth and prosperity goals,” Inslee said in a prepared statement. “This year’s award-winning plans and projects exemplify some of the reasons why Washington is consistently ranked one of the best states in America.”

In its 14th year, the awards program recognizes 13 communities and projects. That includes in the newly created category on Smart Housing Strategies, focusing on creation solutions for affordable housing development.

The Smart Partnership Award recognizes the development of a Blue Mountain Regional Trails Plan that was developed within a 16-month period and finalized in February 2018.

With input and collaboration of 30 city, county, regional, state, federal and tribal entities, it outlined a regionwide, nonmotorized transportation and trails network from Southeastern Washington into Northeastern Oregon.

The vision is expected to stimulate economic development while also encouraging walking, biking and hiking, plus providing more access to outdoor recreation.

The plan accomplishes this through phased integration and connection of existing and planned urban sidewalks and bike routes with recreational and regional trails for 354 total miles of proposed new or improved connections.

Other communities/entities recognized with awards besides Walla Walla and its partners are Tukwila and partners, Bellingham, Blaine, Bonney Lake, Colville and partners, Intercity Transit, Island County, Lakewood, Prosser, Tacoma, and Vancouver.

The celebration for Walla Walla takes place Oct. 30 at 5:15 p.m. in the Rotunda at the Fairgrounds. In attendance will be Dr. Lisa Brown, director of the Washington Department of Commerce, and Jon Snyder, outdoor recreation and economic development policy advisor to Inslee.

A brief presentation on the planning effort will kick off the event. Spanish-langugage interpretation will be provided. For more information about the Blue Mountain Region Trails — Ridges, Towns and Rivers project, visit

Vicki Hillhouse can be reached at 509-526-8321, or on Twitter at

Vicki covers business and economic development, including tourism, the Port of Walla Walla and the Strictly Business column, as well as features. She has been reporting for the Union-Bulletin since late 2001.