Hikers and bikers will travel through North Olympic Peninsula history when Spruce Railroad Trail reopens this weekend.
Crews have nearly completed a half-mile trail segment leading to and through the century-old McFee Tunnel on the north shore of Lake Crescent, which was blasted during World War I.
The trail is scheduled to open with a refurbished tunnel on July 16, parks spokesman Penny Wagner said.
A dedication ceremony for the McFee Tunnel is planned for 10 a.m. Saturday, July 15.
The Spruce Railroad Trail has been closed from the Lyre River trailhead to just beyond the tunnel since September.
Bruch and Bruch Construction of Port Angeles received a $1.2 million contract to restore the 450-foot long tunnel and to widen the trail segment to about 12 feet.
Crews have cleared massive rock piles that nearly obscured the former tunnel entrances and replaced them with shapely arch portals.
Shotcrete, or sprayed-on concrete, was used in portions of the tunnel for added safety. Mechanically stabilized earthwall was used around the entrances. Sheet drains were placed on the tunnel’s ceiling and walls to capture water seeping through the rock formation, according to a series of construction updates. Rock bolts and dowels were used to reinforce the tunnel.
In a recent interview, project manager Don Brouillard said he was “thrilled” with the progress of the tunnel restoration and trail construction.
Clallam County is working with the National Park Service, which owns the land around Lake Crescent, to realign and widen the 3.5-mile Spruce Railroad Trail for non-motorized use.
The multi-year, federally-funded project includes the rehabilitation of the McFee Tunnel and the shorter Daley-Rankin Tunnel to the west.
Once completed in 2019, the Spruce Railroad Trail will offer hikers, bicyclists, equestrians and people in wheelchairs with a safe alternative to the traffic hazards of U.S. Highway 101 on the lake’s southern shore.
County officials said the Spruce Railroad Trail will be a can’t-miss attraction along the 134-mile-long Olympic Discovery Trail, which eventually will connect Port Townsend and La Push.
Clallam County has completed sections of the Olympic Discovery Trail west of the Spruce Railroad Trail along on the west side of the lake, on Fairholme Hill and in the Sol Duc Valley. Last year, crews realigned and constructed 0.6 miles of the Spruce Railroad Trail from the Lyre River trailhead to the old railroad grade on the lakeshore.
Later this year, a county contractor will build another segment on the west end of the Spruce Railroad Trail. Next year, crews will restore the trail west of the McFee Tunnel and rehabilitate the shorter Daley-Rankin.
“We have begun design work on the section between the tunnels,” Clallam County transportation program manager Rich James said last week.
“That project will be constructed in 2018.”
Crews will return in the spring of 2019 and pave the entire length of the Spruce Railroad Trail, James said.
A new Lyre River trailhead parking lot is being constructed to accommodate horse trailers and up to 33 vehicles. Reflective markers will be placed in the McFee Tunnel to reflect light from the entrances.
The Spruce Railroad Trail was built in 1918 to move Sitka spruce for the construction of World War I biplanes. While the war ended before the trees could be used in airplane construction, the Spruce Railroad remained open as a common carrier line and logging railroad until it was abandoned in 1951, Olympic National Park officials said.
Meanwhile, the National Park Service has removed trees and root wads from sections of the Spruce Railroad Trail to preserve fish habitat in road repairs along rivers throughout the park.
“The removal of trees to provide for visitor access was very selective and went through analysis to mitigate impacts to the environment,” Wagner said in a news release.
“The logs were used in park road repairs on Olympic Hot Springs Road, Graves Creek Road, Quinault North Shore Road and eventually on the Hoh Road,” she said.
Rob Ollikainen is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. He can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.