Urban Trail opens in South Tacoma at recommendation of neighborhood council

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Tacoma City Councilmember Joe Lonergan reads the proclamation with the late Skip Vaughn’s family (from left): son Dan Vaughn, daughter Sue Rybolt and dog Misty, wife Laura Vaughn, and granddaughter Michelle Donoghue. Photos by Christina Lorella / City of Tacoma

On Saturday, Oct. 14, the City of Tacoma’s Environmental Services Department hosted the official naming ceremony and grand opening of the Skip Vaughn Trail located at the South 80th Street Regional Stormwater Holding Basin in South Tacoma. The half-mile, ADA accessible pedestrian trail and the surrounding 25 acres of native landscape provides an “island” of walkable, public greenspace and habitat in a highly urbanized neighborhood.

The holding basin, which is bordered on all sides by businesses and dense housing, was fenced off in the’90s due to liability concerns, preventing public use.

In 2015, Environmental Services Director Mike Slevin attended a South Tacoma Neighborhood Council meeting where he presented the City’s proposed expansion of the holding basin. During that meeting, community members inquired about the fence, noting that prior to its installation, residents had enjoyed using the area as an open space to walk and experience nature. Among those urging the City to reopen the facility for public use was Gwilymn “Skip” Vaughn, then-chair of the Neighborhood Council and an avid community activist.

In response to citizen input, Slevin integrated a plan to include a public trail as a part of an expansion of the holding basin, which was intended to protect downstream properties and creeks from flooding caused by stormwater runoff flowing from about 3,000 acres of nearby commercial and residential neighborhoods.

“This is the first time we’ve made one of our regional holding basins open to the public as a neighborhood amenity,” said project engineer Jessica Knickerbocker. “Many of our holding basins are located in busy urban corridors and we are testing out the possibility of opening more facilities for public use. We hope the community enjoys it.”

At the recommendation of the South Tacoma Neighborhood Council, the new walking trail has been named in commemoration of the late Skip Vaughn. Vaughn was a longtime advocate for open spaces, especially in South Tacoma.

Vaughn is viewed by many as the “father” of the neighborhood council program, and participated for many years as a founding member and president of the South Tacoma Neighborhood Council.

His impact on the community was evident at the event, where scores of individuals came to honor Vaughn. Councilmember Joe Lonergan showed his appreciation for Vaughn’s dedication to the community by presenting the mayor’s recognition, formally naming the trail. Vaughn’s wife, Laura Vaughn, cut the official trail-opening ribbon and assisted her daughter as they planted a tree in honor of the man who helped preserve some of Tacoma’s natural beauty.

“Mr. Vaughn was an uplifting man who was known for bringing people from all walks of life together,” Slevin said. “He has left a legacy in South Tacoma and we are thrilled to be able to name this trail in his honor.”

The public is invited to enjoy the trail seven days a week, from dawn until dusk.

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