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'Missing link' connects with Ballard City Council contest

caption: Warren Aakervik of the Ballard Oil Company, pictured in 2019.
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Warren Aakervik of the Ballard Oil Company, pictured in 2019.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

The Burke Gilman Trail "missing link" — a stretch of bike trail planned along Ballard’s working waterfront — has been held up by legal appeals for years.

Now, it’s become an issue in the upcoming City Council elections.

Warren Aakervik retired long ago, but he’s still fighting the missing link from his old office at Ballard Oil. To show me why, he pushed his walker out to the end of the fueling pier, in the rain.

“You got this under control Warren?” asked a customer.

“I don’t know. We’ll see. It sure as hell can’t get any worse than it is,” he said.

We saw a couple fishing boats tied up.

“There’s a couple – the Atlantis is a small seiner that just came down from Alaska – she’s just taking fuel," Aakervik said.

As we passed, Aakervik praised — or maybe teased — the crew: "Nice job parking the boat on Saturday!"

Aakervik said Ballard Oil and many other businesses serving the region’s fishing fleet are threatened by the bike trail. He worries that big trucks crossing the trail won’t see the cyclists, collisions will bring lawsuits, and lawsuits will shut down the working waterfront.

That would be hard on the Alaskan fishing fleet, whose biggest boats can take take on 50,000 gallons of fuel at Ballard Oil upon departure for Alaska.

Aakervik said refueling piers like this are few, and no new piers are likely to be built given current regulations.

City Council candidates for Ballard have shown openness to this criticism.

District 6 candidate Heidi Wills wants to elevate the bike trail high above the trucks. She’d call it the "Ballard Highline."

Candidate Dan Strauss wants to widen the trail and move it inland to Leary Way.

Their positions frustrate bike advocates who don’t want more uncertainty for the trail route. But Aakervik is glad candidates are making this an issue.

“We have some potential there," he said.

The city attorney’s office expects the current round of litigation to end in early 2020. Construction on the missing link could start later that year, unless there’s another appeal.

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