By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News
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“I hate hearing that,” said the co-president of the Peninsula Trails Coalition.
“Sure, you like having the trail to yourselves, but I want to see it packed.”
Stevenson told the Sequim-Dungeness Valley Chamber of Commerce at its regular luncheon last week that more marketing of the trail that spans 130 miles from Port Townsend to La Push could be a boon for the North Olympic Peninsula's economy.
“This is a world class facility,” he said at Tuesday's meeting. “If we went out with a more bike-friendly message and had more services to bring to the trail-using crowd, we could produce a ton of benefit to the local tourism economy.”
He called for more tour guides, services that would shuttle riders' luggage to lodges ahead and food and lodging services along the trail to capture the “affluent” bike crowds.
Shell Robb-Kahler, director of the chamber, said bicyclists riding the Olympic Discovery Trail make up a large percentage of the people who stop at the chamber's visitor center in east Sequim.
Gov. Jay Inslee recently rode the Olympic Discovery Trail from Port Townsend to Port Angeles with 250 members of the Puget Sound Bicycle Club.
Stevenson also spoke about the difficulties in completing the trail.
The coalition works with 14 different jurisdictions — including cities, counties, federal agencies and tribes — to secure rights-of-way for the trail.
As it is now, only 54 miles of the route is completed with adequate pavement.
Another 25 miles of the trail covers county and city road shoulders, while 50 miles covers highways like U.S. Highway 101 around Discovery Bay that is only fit for experienced cyclists, said Stevenson, who rides more than 6,000 miles by bicycle annually around the world.
“We still have a long way to go,” he said.
He pointed to three main gaps in the trail: The Joyce Gap, where there's no trail from the Elwha River to Lake Crescent; the Jefferson Gap, from 4 Corners to Gardiner; and the West End Gap, where the trail is lacking from Lake Pleasant to La Push.
“They're right in the middle of the trail,” he said of the gaps.
The Jefferson Gap, he said, is particularly difficult because the trail runs east-west and Jefferson County's population is primarily situated on a north-south line, starting with the county seat in Port Townsend and running down through Port Hadlock and Port Ludlow.
“I'm glad to see the Port Townsend trails folks are here,” he said at the chamber meeting, which was attended by members of the Port Townsend Bicycle Association.
This June, a 7-mile leg of the trail was completed between the Camp Creek and Mount Muller trailheads off U.S. Highway 101 in the Sol Duc River valley.
Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.