Trails group to increase efforts in Lewis River area

By Allen Thomas, Columbian outdoors reporter

Published:

 

The Washington Trails Association plans to shift its focus to additional areas of Southwest Washington including the Lewis River drainage.

The Seattle-based organization outlined its plans for 2012 in an application for a $24,000 grant from the U.S. Forest Service.

WTA was awarded the money in September under a provision of the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act of 2000. About half the money will be used to hire a seasonal trail crew leader.

The association will contribute $94,200, mostly in volunteer labor building and maintaining trails in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest and Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.

WTA started working in the Lewis River drainage this summer. On National Public Lands Day in September, WTA participated in efforts to repair East Fork Lewis trail No. 139.

Earlier in the summer, WTA backcountry teams repaired the first two miles of Quartz Creek trail No. 5, also in the Lewis drainage.

"Thre are several old-growth-sized trees across the trail (Quartz Creek) up to Snagtooth Creek, but otherwise it's in pretty good shape now,'' said Ryan Ojerior, WTA's regional coordinator.

Quartz Creek trail is key link between Lewis River trail No. 31 and Boundary trail No. 1 in the Dark Divide Roadless Area. It has suffered for many years from deferred maintenance.

Besides more work on Quartz Creek trail, WTA has plans to send backcountry teams on Goat Mountain trail No. 219 on the north side of Mount St. Helens, Ojerio said.

Also on WTA's agenda for 2012 are:

• Hosting another "trail skills college'' in Cascade Locks, Ore. The event attracted more than 150 students in 2011. The students apply what they've learned by working on Cape Horn trail, east of Washougal.

• Working on extensive re-routes on Cape Horn trail to bring approximately .75-mile to equestrian standards and to move it away from a sensitive area. That will take two to three years of volunteer effort to complete.

This stretch eventually will tie with the proposed Washougal-to-Stevenson trail through the west end of the Columbia Gorge.

• Maintaining high-priority trails identified by the Mount Adams Ranger District and Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.

Ojerio said WTA meets with the Forest Service each fall to pick maintenance priorities for the coming year.

Volunteers in 2011 completed a mile-long trail connecting the Hardy Ridge and Hardy Creek trails in Beacon Rock State Park. They also built a bridge to avoid a muddy creek crossing on the Cape Horn trail just south of state Highway 14.