By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News
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About two dozen people, roughly half astride bicycles, turned out for the opening ceremony for the 100-foot bridge near the former mill site on Rayonier property.
“This is something that our children and our children's children will be able to enjoy for years to come,” said Craig Fulton, Port Angeles public works and utilities director, at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
The ceremony also marked the opening of a more direct paved route for the Olympic Discovery Trail — called the Waterfront Trail as it runs through Port Angeles — across a portion of the former Rayonier mill site.
The old 1½-mile gravel stretch that snaked through the mill property to the south will be closed in favor of the shorter route, city officials have said.
George Abrahams of Sequim was one bicyclist who stood awaiting the opening Thursday near the red ribbon stretched across the new bridge.
Abrahams said he's glad to see the bridge and shorter portion of the trail opened because the gravel stretches of the trail looping through the Rayonier property could be treacherous for bicyclists.
“It means less crashes,” Abrahams said.
The new section of trail also will make the entire path more inviting to walkers, runners and bicyclists alike, he added.
“We're just excited the trail gets the attention it deserves from everyone,” he said.
“I know it's been a long way, but we're really excited about finally getting it open,” City Engineer Mike Puntenney told the Peninsula Daily News earlier this month.
The trail and bridge could have been open earlier, Puntenney said, but the state Department of Ecology required modifications to trail fencing and signage to make sure no one was exposed to potential contamination on the mill site.
“We had to do these last modifications, and if we didn't have to do those, it might have been open [in the] December to January time frame,” Puntenney said, adding that the city also worked with Rayonier since the company still owns the property.
“We definitely worked cooperatively between all the parties.”
The former site of the Rayonier pulp mill, which operated for 68 years, is undergoing an Ecology-mandated cleanup designed to remove toxin-laced soil from the property.
The bridge, which cost $1,012,000, is part of the $16.7 million first phase of the city's “combined sewer overflow” project and carries pipes leading from downtown to a 5 million-gallon tank on the former mill site.
The tank will be used to store stormwater and sewage until it can be treated by the nearby city water treatment plant.
The overall goal of the city's project is to increase sewer and stormwater capacity between downtown and the city's plant, and reduce the amount of untreated sewage and stormwater flowing into Port Angeles Harbor during heavy rains.
The state Department of Ecology is requiring the city to reduce these flows in the coming years or pay fines.
Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.