DISCOVERY BAY — Trail users, elected officials and conservationists celebrated the opening of new sections of the Olympic Discovery Trail on Friday.
The ribbon cutting at the new trailhead on the southwest portion of Discovery Bay, marked the official opening of the ¾-mile section of paved trail and the culmination of a habitat restoration effort.
“This is quite an accomplishment of partners,” said Jefferson County Commissioner Kathleen Kler, adding that so many people and organizations had a role in creating the trail that it was difficult to know who to thank first.
It was a project led by Jefferson County’s Department of Public Works which also included the Peninsula Trails Coalition, the North Olympic Salmon Coalition, the state Recreation and Conservation Office and others.
Officials also celebrated Friday the opening of a section of trail in Diamond Point. Peninsula Trails Coalition President Jeff Bohman said both sections represent different interests working together.
“It’s another wonderful example of different jurisdictions and interests working together for this wonderful trail resource,” he said.
The Diamond Point section is just under a mile long and parallels U.S. Highway 101. That project was led by the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe.
State Sen. Steve Tharinger, D-Sequim, told about 25 people who attended the ceremony that getting this section built has been far from easy. It took a partnership and vision that started more than two decades ago.
“There is always that tension between the vision of what we want to do … and the reality of getting it done,” he said. “Bit by bit that reality is happening and this has been an important piece.”
The Olympic Discovery Trail project currently has sections in Clallam and Jefferson counties and, once completed, is expected to provide a 126-mile route from Port Townsend to the Pacific Coast near La Push.
Tharinger said the Discovery Bay section was particularly important because it combined restoration efforts with adding a new public facility.
Tharinger said the next stretch that needs to be figured out is connecting South Discovery Bay to the Four Corners area.
“That’s probably one of the more challenging pieces left in the puzzle between Port Townsend and La Push,” he said.
Rebecca Benjamin, executive director of the North Olympic Salmon Coalition, said it’s been the group’s goal for about six years to restore South Discovery Bay and she was excited to see it become a reality.
She said the passion of the salmon people came together with the passion of trail supporters to make the project possible.
She said that after tackling the “low hanging fruit” one of the more difficult projects included removing the railroad grade that bisected the estuary, which she said was interrupting the tidal flow.
“We were able get that project going pretty much only because Steve Tharinger sat me down at his desk,” she said. “This wouldn’t have happened if not for the fundraising the Trails Coalition did.”
Benjamin said that it seemed like the coalition raised $65,000 overnight, which was used on the preliminary design.
“I don’t think this would have happened if Steve didn’t bang down on his desk and if you guys didn’t raise the money,” she said. “Hats off to you guys.”
Kaleen Cottingham, director of the state Recreation and Conservation Office, said her office has been more involved with the Olympic Discovery Trail than it is with most other projects across the state.
She said that in this section alone the RCO invested $1.2 million. She then pointed elsewhere and said “we’ve got a $1 million over there.”
Overall, the RCO has about $12 million it spent on the ODT, she said.
“This project is especially important because my agency does salmon recovery, outdoor recreation and conservation,” she said. “All of those come together in this project.”
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected]