PORT ANGELES — The Olympic Discovery Trail will experience significant growth in the next five years, particularly south of Port Townsend and west of Forks, Peninsula Trails Coalition President Jeff Bohman predicted Wednesday.
Trail developers are “kickin’ A” east of Blyn while construction continues on the Spruce Railroad Trail at Lake Crescent, Bohman told Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce members.
The 3.5-mile Spruce Railroad Trail will become a “jewel” of the ODT once completed in two years, Bohman said.
“That may well turn out to be the Hope Diamond amongst the jewels,” Bohman said.
“It’s going to be incredible. It’s already beautiful.”
The all-volunteer Peninsula Trails Coalition is working with 14 jurisdictions to shepherd the development of the 130-miles-long Olympic Discovery Trail.
The non-motorized, paved multi-use trail eventually will connect Port Townsend to La Push.
Marc Abshire, Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce executive director, described the expanding trail as a “business asset” for the region.
“It’s going to drive tourism,” Abshire said.
“It’s going to drive business. It already has. It already does.”
Events like the North Olympic Discovery Marathon, which showcases the ODT, attract out-of-town visitors, Abshire said.
“That’s the secret sauce, bringing dollars in from the outside,” Abshire said.
“That’s what the ODT is going to do for us. Plus it’s a wonderful thing in our community for us to enjoy.”
Most segments of the Olympic Discovery Trail between the Elwha River and the Jefferson County line have been completed.
Two new segments were dedicated last December: one at Diamond Point and one in east Jefferson County at Discovery Bay.
The ODT begins in Port Townsend as the Larry Scott Memorial Trail, a completed 8-mile trail from the waterfront to the Four Corners area.
In the next five years, trail planners hope to bridge a missing link known as the Eaglemount section from Four Corners to South Discovery Bay.
State Rep. Steve Tharinger, D-Sequim, helped secure state trail money to design the Eaglemount route, Bohman said.
Jefferson County has hired a renowned consultant to design the trail, which will likely use Anderson Lake State Park.
“There’s a lot of great stuff going on over in Jefferson County,” Bohman told about 60 chamber members at the Port Angeles Red Lion Hotel.
While the Eaglemount section is being funded and built, trail developers hope to bridge short gaps in the ODT between Diamond Point Road and Blyn.
“The Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe has been an outstanding leader and partner in the trail,” Bohman said.
In Port Angeles, the city is designing a project to realign the ODT from Marine Drive to the city’s west side.
The trail now uses Hill Street to climb the bluff.
“There will be a really interesting boardwalk that will traverse and ascend that slope, and it will achieve the upper elevation at the west end of Crown Park,” Bohman said.
The ODT is a dedicated path from the trailhead at West 10th Street and Milwaukee Drive to the west side of the Elwha River.
Clallam County transportation planners are acquiring right-of-way to build the main stem of the ODT on the north side of state Highway 112 from the Elwha River to Joyce.
The ODT Adventure Route is a single-track, dirt path that traverses the hills to the Lyre River.
“Without [Clallam County Transportation Program Manager] Rich James and the support of the county and county commissioners and public works over the years, I wouldn’t be here telling you this story,” Bohman said.
“They truly, with all due respect to all the other jurisdictions, have far and away led the way, just because of pure mileage and distance, but also their commitment.”
Clallam County has been working with the National Park Service to reconstruct the Spruce Railroad Trail and its two historic tunnels at Lake Crescent.
This year, crews are restoring the western section of the Spruce Railroad Trail beginning at Camp David Jr. Road.
The eastern section from the Lyre River Trailhead through the newly-restored McFee Tunnel to the Daley Rankin Tunnel remain open to the public.
Bohman and others have said the Spruce Railroad Trail will become a tourist attraction.
“It’s just going to be an absolutely thrilling experience,” Bohman said.
Several paved sections of the ODT have been competed west of the Spruce Railroad Trail, over Fairhome Hill and in the Sol Duc Valley.
“Given the leaf fall, given the tree fall, given the limited population west of Port Angles, the long-term maintenance of this piece of trail will be a big responsibility for us,” Bohman said.
“We will be eagerly looking for folks who want to adopt a section of trail.”
The ODT follows Cooper Ranch Road and Mary Clark Road from a trailhead near the Klahowa Campground to Sappho.
Clallam County is working with private land owners to build the trail from Sappho to Forks and a spur trail into Forks using a new bridge over the Calawah River.
“There are also exciting developments going on with timber interests on a fully-defined, off-road corridor getting all the way out to La Push,” Bohman said.
“That same five-year timeline that we’re talking about [for ODT Eaglemount], it wouldn’t be too terribly surprising for that same five-year period to see actual trail for portions out here. “
For information on the Peninsula Trails Coalition or the ODT, click on www.olympicdiscoverytrail.org.
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at [email protected].