Key ODT link gets go-ahead

Clallam County commissioners approve funds for land; construction possible in 2024

PORT ANGELES — A budget transfer Tuesday finalized a $150,000 appropriation for land acquisition to complete 13 miles of Olympic Discovery trail to its western end at La Push, 135 miles from its eastern terminus in Port Townsend.

Without discussion, Clallam County commissioners, during their regular meeting, forwarded the lodging tax proceeds to public works for the stretch from U.S. Highway 101 at Forks along the state Highway 110 corridor to an existing trail at the Quileute reservation.

Two acquisition areas total 9.7 miles, with the remainder of the link on existing public roadway or tribal land.

The 13-mile segment passes through undeveloped, forested landscape, crosses over the Bogachiel River and melts briefly into a 0.75-mile strip of coastal Olympic National Park.

It ties to First and Second Beach trailheads before connecting with an existing trail that leads to the Pacific Coast along the La Push waterfront.

In keeping with most other portions of the ODT, it will consist of a 10-foot-wide asphalt surface and an adjacent 4-foot-wide gravel equestrian trail.

A consultant should have a scoping report ready by this spring or summer that will provide more details about the project, county Public Works Transportation Manager Steve Gray said Tuesday afternoon.

“The goal would be to start construction in ’24,” he said, adding about 60 percent of the trail is complete.

“If we can acquire the corridor this year or by next year, we could probably start looking at construction in maybe ’24 or ’25, but not any earlier than 2023. But we have to acquire the corridor first.”

Rayonier owns about 85 percent of the property that must be purchased, while 10 percent is owned by the state Department of Natural Resources, Gray said.

DNR is expected to grant easements for the trail in a negotiated purchase.

Commissioners Mark Ozias, Randy Johnson and Bill Peach had made the $150,000 allocation one of the larger blocks of lodging tax funds they approved Jan. 5, making Tuesday’s action a formality but an important one.

“It’s something we are definitely supporting,” said Peach, who represents the Port Angeles-West End District 3 that includes the 13-mile stretch.

“It has the potential to increase activity in Forks because of the bicyclists, and that’s welcome.”

The project has been selected for a $6.1 million federal Department of Transportation Federal Lands Access Program award and is the top-ranked project for a $905,456 state Recreation and Conservation Office Trail Grant out of 29 applications.

Gray said he expects a funding contract for the trail grant to be signed by this summer.

Other funding includes a $20,000 pledge from the Peninsula Trails Coalition.

The trail will connect with a separate 1-mile segment from Calawah River Park in Forks to the state Highway 110-U.S. Highway 101 intersection, where the 13-mile segment begins, to Sitkum-Sol Duc Road.

The 1-mile portion includes a multi-user Calawah River bridge crossing and is a key connector from the city to LaPush, Gray said in an email.

It also will help close the gap between Forks and the existing Olympic Discovery Trail segment to the northeast in the Sappho area, he said.

The smaller project also has been awarded a $450,000 federal Transportation Alternatives Program grant from the federal Department of Transportation.

The Lloyd J. Allen Charitable Trust has pledged $300,000 toward funding the bridge.

“The major cost in that is putting the multi-user bridge at the park,” Gray said.

“The [existing] 101 bridge crossing is too narrow for bikes.”

Peach said the trail is being made possible with cooperation from the Quileute Tribe.

Ozias, the board chair, said connecting La Push and Forks has long been a priority.

“The overall goal of the Olympic Discovery Trail is to be able to connect all the way out to the coast, and without this section, we can’t do that,” he said, noting attention has lately focused on trail improvements at Lake Crescent.

“We have to keep moving on all this at the same time,” he said.

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].

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