OLYMPIA – The Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office tomorrow will present Clallam County with its Bravo Award for its project to reconstruct the historic Spruce Railroad as a trail on the north shore of Lake Crescent.
The County’s project was the top ranked project in the trails category of the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program.
“This project is a great example of what the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program aims to accomplish,” said Kaleen Cottingham, director of the Recreation and Conservation Office, which administers the statewide grant program. “Using this $460,000 grant along with an equal contribution in local funding and donations, Clallam County will reconstruct a half-mile of trail, restore a 96-year-old tunnel and expand a trailhead, both preserving a part of Washington’s history and creating places for new generations to recreate.”
In 1918, the U.S. Army built 36 miles of railroad west of Port Angeles, including two railroad tunnels that were used to deliver spruce for World War I airplanes. The McFee Tunnel was closed by blasting in the 1960s. The blocked tunnel, steep trail, rocky and muddy trail surfaces and poor drainage prevent people using wheelchairs and touring bicyclists from using the trail. Bicyclists are forced to take a dangerous route on U.S. Highway 101 on the south side of the lake.
The County, with the full cooperation of Olympic National Park staff, will restore the Mc Fee tunnel and trail so it can be used by hikers, bicyclists and equestrians. The work will create a non-motorized trail separated from car traffic on the north shore of Lake Crescent that will connect to 60 miles of trail east of the project site and 20 miles west of the site.
The Legislature created the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program in 1990 to conserve land before it was developed, and provide more places for outdoor recreation. The Legislature recognized that the state’s growing population would need more places for outdoor recreation and wildlife and it would be more economical to buy the land early. Today, the program is the largest state grant source for local and state parks, trails and conservation of wildlife habitat and working farms and ranches.
The competition for grant funding is high, with projects rated by citizens and professionals on many factors, such as need, other trail linkages, design and community support.
“Only the best of the best projects get funded,” Cottingham said. “Clallam County has consistently brought forth outstanding projects. The County has been awarded 37 grants since 1970, totaling nearly $12 million.
Cottingham will present the award to the Board of Clallam County Commissioners at its meeting at 10 a.m., Tuesday, Room 160, Clallam County Courthouse, 223 E. 4th St., Port Angeles.
More information about the grant, as well as pictures, are available online at Spruce Railroad Restoration.