OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK — If the Spruce Railroad Trail is on your to-do list this year, now’s the time to check it off.
The scenic trail on the north shore of Lake Crescent will be closed from the Lyre River trailhead to the McFee Tunnel beginning Sept. 19 for the next phase of trail improvements, Olympic National Park officials announced.
A half-mile section of trail will be widened to about 12 feet — and the historic tunnel will be restored — as part of a multi-year effort to incorporate the Spruce Railroad Trail into the Olympic Discovery Trail system.
The eastern section of the Spruce Railroad Trail will be closed until spring.
The west section of trail between the Camp David Jr. Road trailhead and the west end of the McFee Tunnel will remain open during construction.
“Each phase of this project brings us closer to providing nearly 10 miles of universally accessible trail along the beautiful north shore of Lake Crescent,” Olympic National Park Acting Superintendent Rachel Spector said in a news release.
“We appreciate our close collaboration with Clallam County and the Federal Highway Administration, as well as the dedicated work of our Olympic National Park staff.”
Clallam County and the National Park Service are working cooperatively on a mostly federally-funded project to provide 9.5 miles of paved, non-motorized trail to be shared by hikers, bicyclists, equestrians and those in wheelchairs.
Once completed in late 2019, the Spruce Railroad Trail will provide bicyclists and other non-motorized users with a safe and scenic alternative to the traffic hazards of U.S. Highway 101 on the south side of the lake.
$1.2 million contract
Bruch and Bruch Construction of Port Angeles received a $1.2 million contract to complete the next phase of trail construction, which includes the restoration of the 450-foot long McFee Tunnel near Devil’s Punchbowl, park officials said.
Crews will use debris that nearly covers the tunnel’s east entrance to raise the base height of the Spruce Railroad Trail, county officials have said.
New tunnel entrances and facades will be installed, rock walls will be stabilized and the tunnel’s interior walls will be lined for added safety.
At the trailhead, an excess park structure will be demolished and removed to make room for a 20-vehicle parking lot with a horse trailer turn-around, park officials said.
Last year, crews realigned and built 0.6 miles of the Spruce Railroad Trail from the Lyre River trailhead to the old railroad grade on the shore of the lake.
Other sections of the Spruce Railroad Trail will be improved in late 2017 and 2018, with completion scheduled for late 2019, park officials said.
The Spruce Railroad Trail follows a historic railroad grade that was built in 1918.
The Olympic Discovery Trail will one day connect the Puget Sound at Port Townsend to the Pacific Ocean at La Push.
Clallam County is in various stages of developing the Olympic Discovery Trail west of the Elwha River.
Crews this summer are building a 2.15-mile trail segment between Fairholme Hill and the Sol Duc Valley. That segment will connect six miles of existing trail in the Sol Duc Valley to 8.5 miles of completed trail west of Lake Crescent.
Meanwhile, county commissioners have begun a series of easement purchases to build the trail between Freshwater Bay and Camp Hayden roads east of Joyce.
Most of the Olympic Discovery Trail between the Elwha River and the Jefferson County line is completed.
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at [email protected].