Mile by mile, the hope of a multi-use trail from Port Townsend to the shores of the Pacific Ocean is steadily moving from an aging vision to a reality.
About 70 miles of the estimated 130-mile Olympic Discovery Trail is usable, but projects in both Clallam and Jefferson counties are lined up to continue the work to extend the trail.
On May 19, Clallam County was allocated $100,000 federal transportation alternative funds, said Rich James, Clallam County Public Works transportation program manager.
The funds will allow county officials to pursue building a 1.6-mile segment of the trail between the two tunnels on the Railroad Spruce Trail bordering Lake Crescent. The project is slated for 2018-2019.
James announced the funding at the Peninsula Trails Coalition annual membership meeting where more than 70 people, including State Rep. Steve Tharinger, were in attendance to celebrate the past and future progress of the ODT. The coalition — an all-volunteer, nonprofit — formed in 1988 with the goal to create the Olympic Discovery Trail.
Beyond a unique recreational outlet that promotes health and links many to the outdoors and nature, Tharinger described the trail as an “economic engine.”
“As the tourism sector of the economy is developed the trail can be a great asset,” he said.
Construction to the once railroad tunnels on the Spruce Railroad Trail also are underway in order to accommodate the ODT. Restoration of the larger 400-foot tunnel is set to begin mid-September and could extend through the winter, James said.
County officials are asking for other funding from the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office to put toward restoring the smaller second, smaller tunnel, too.
The county wasn’t the only entity to receive funding aimed at the ODT. Also, on May 19 the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe was awarded an $182,308 grant from the Peninsula Regional Transportation Planning Organization to complete a 0.64-mile stretch of trail on tribal property beginning at East Michigan School Road west toward Old Blyn Highway.
“This piece especially fills a gap of the trail where folks would have to bump out onto Highway 101 if they wanted to get through this section of trail,” said Annette Nesse, Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe chief operating officer. “Right now we’re working on the trail section from Diamond Point Road westward about three-quarters of a mile and this trail section that we just got funding for will add to that.”
The tribe is contributing matching funds of $48,000 that likely will help to initiate the design phase of the project prior to the use of the recently awarded grant allocated for 2018-2019.
Coinciding with the work of officials with Clallam County and the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, a culvert in Sequim Bay State Park is set to be removed and replaced by a fish-friendly bridge. Installation of the bridge will improve the ODT, which runs through the park and as is undergoes large elevation change where the bridge will go, James explained.
“Engineers are finalizing the plans and then it will go out to bid,” said Kinnan Murray, acting manager of Sequim Bay State Park. “We hope to remove the culvert by Sept. 30 and have the bridge up before the new year.”
After the culvert is removed and until the bridge is built, Murray assured that a temporary bypass will be installed to allow ODT access.
Future progress on the ODT in Clallam County is being mirrored in Jefferson County where support from the Board of County Commissioners is allowing for a feasibility study of a 6-mile section. Through the county, the funds from the state Recreation and Conservation Office cap at $1 million to evaluate and then possibly obtain land for a new route that would take trail users through the Eaglemount area and in doing so avoid the dangerous section of state Highway 20 between Four Corners Road and Discovery Bay. Challenges posed by the area’s topography created by long ago glaciers is another reason the segment of trail hasn’t been planned, let alone built, explained Jeff Selby, the Jefferson County vice president of the Peninsula Trails Coalition.
Upon completion it’s hoped the study will determine the best option for connecting the existing Larry Scott Trail to the ODT trailhead in Discovery Bay near Snow Creek to Old Gardiner Road — a portion of the ODT anticipated to undergo construction next summer.
For more information about the ODT or the Peninsula Trails Coalition, visit www.peninsulatrailscoalition.org.