A group of homeowners fighting the construction of East Lake Sammamish Trail in Sammamish for nearly a decade dropped out of a fight this...

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A group of homeowners fighting the construction of East Lake Sammamish Trail in Sammamish for nearly a decade dropped out of a fight this week to block approval of a key environmental permit necessary to build the trail.

Supporters of the trail and King County, which is in charge of the project, lauded the move as a victory yesterday.

“We’re very pleased by what happened today and do hope that this will allow us to open the trail sooner for public access,” said Brooke Bascom, spokeswoman for the King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks. “The fact that there’s not the opposition that there used to be may shorten the time of the trail getting built.”

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But the trail fight is “far from over,” said Hank Waggoner, president of the homeowners’ group, also known as the East Lake Sammamish Community Association. The group still plans to appeal a federal judge’s ruling issued earlier this year that supported the development of the trail, said Waggoner.

King County has been trying to build the trail along an abandoned railbed since it purchased the property in 1998, but legal challenges have kept it from moving forward. The trail would connect the Sammamish River Trail, which ends at Marymoor Park, to other trails along Interstate 90 near Issaquah.

Homeowners protested the critical 11-mile midsection of the trail in Sammamish, which would run through their properties and, in some cases, abut or cross their front yards. They wanted a route, called the Rundle-Haro Plan, that would curve away from the railbed at several points to run along East Lake Sammamish Parkway and away from homes.

In a separate legal ruling in January, U.S. District Judge John Coughenour in Seattle disagreed with the homeowners and ruled that the former railbed is appropriate for trail use.

Now the county is seeking a Public Agency Utility Exception from John Galt, a Sammamish hearing examiner, to allow the trail to cross sensitive wetland areas. It’s unclear when a decision will be issued on that permit, Bascom said.

Other hurdles remain. The county is waiting to hear back from the county Department of Development and Environmental Services on shoreline clearing and grading permits needed to move ahead with the trail.

The homeowners said they opted to back out of the utility-exception permit battle, in part, for financial reasons.

“We’re not opposed to trails. We just want the county to do it right,” said Waggoner. “We think their plan is extremely poor.”

Sonia Krishnan: 206-515-5546