By foot or by wheel, users of the Olympic Discovery Trail now have more room to roam.
Trail supporters, elected officials and representatives from a number of local and regional entities celebrated the opening of a pair of newly-completed trail sections last week, including a three-quarter-mile stretch from the Clallam County/Jefferson County line to just past Knapp Road along US Highway 101.
That section was funded by two Washington State Department of Transportation grants: the Transportation Alternatives Program and the Pedestrian and Bicycle Program, all obtained by the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe.
“It’s a thrill to work with all the tribes, but especially the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe (who’s) on the forefront on trail projects,” Peninsula Trails Coalition President Jeff Bohman said on Dec. 15, joining a crowd at the ODT trailhead just off Diamond Point Road.
Joining Bohman were representatives from the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe and Washington State Department of Transportation, Clallam County Commissioner Randy Johnson, State Rep. Steve Tharinger and others.
“I share Jeff’s enthusiasm,” said W. Ron Allen, Jamestown S’Klallam Tribal Council Chairman/CEO.
A short section between the west end of the new trail and Pierce Road, funded by Clallam County, connects to a hard surface path from Pierce Road to Old Blyn Highway cleared by Peninsula Trail Coalition volunteers. From there, travelers pick up the trail again at Blyn Road on Old Blyn Highway, a county road.
“Trail users can now ride or walk on the ODT from Diamond Point Road to west of Port Angeles without traveling on the highway; it will all be either on trail or county road,” Annette Nesse, the tribe’s Chief Operations Officer, noted.
And while the trail isn’t completely off the highway from Port Townsend to La Push, Allen likes the community’s efforts to get it done.
“We’ve already done so much — who’s going to stop us?” he said Friday.
Included in the new construction is a parking lot at Diamond Point Road, made possible with additional funding from the Peninsula Trails Coalition, which has designated that point as a trailhead.
The parking area is available for bus rider and carpool commuter parking.
Allen noted the tribe plans to add informational signs along new sections of the trail.
“We have visions to use (the trail) not just to hike and bike but to educate,” he said.
The Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, which has been involved in building the Olympic Discovery Trail since the 1990s, is working with Clallam County to connect the official trail along Old Blyn Highway in the coming year by traversing parcels of land that are tribal-owned, and working with owners of the other parcels to determine the best route to complete the trail along that section.
“We’re just excited to be part of it,” Allen said.
Johnson said the trail continues to be an economic driver for the area, and that the newly-added sections of the trail only improve it.
“This is one of the premier attractions on the peninsula, Johnson said. “I think this (trail) will be a Mecca for tourists. I can see this being packed with people.”
“This trail is known nationally, internationally, as a destination,” he said.
Discovery Bay section
Trail users and officials also celebrated the official opening of a 0.75-mile section of trail near Discovery Bay on Dec. 15.
The ribbon cutting at the new trailhead on the southwest portion of Discovery Bay marked the official opening of the a section of paved trail and the culmination of a habitat restoration effort.
“This is quite an accomplishment of partners,” Jefferson County Commissioner Kathleen Kler said.
The project was led by Jefferson County’s Department of Public Works along with the Peninsula Trails Coalition, the North Olympic Salmon Coalition, the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office and others.
Once completed, the Olympic Discovery Trail is expected to provide a 126-mile route from Port Townsend to the Pacific Coast near La Push.
Tharinger said the Discovery Bay section was particularly important because it combined restoration efforts with adding a new public facility.
He said the next stretch that needs to be figured out is connecting South Discovery Bay to the Four Corners area.
“That’s probably one of the more challenging pieces left in the puzzle between Port Townsend and La Push,” Tharinger said.
While there is more work to do in coming weeks, months and years — particularly around Lake Crescent — Bohman said he expects within two years the Olympic Discovery Trail will have either a dedicated path or a parallel path alongside a road from the Diamond Point trailhead to the Elwha River.
For more information about the Olympic Discovery Trail, see olympicdiscoverytrail.org.
Jesse Major, a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum, contributed to this report.