Photo courtesy of Noel Carey
A landslide blocks safe passage along the Spruce Railroad Trail. Olympic National Park officials said heavy rain was the cause.

Photo courtesy of Noel Carey A landslide blocks safe passage along the Spruce Railroad Trail. Olympic National Park officials said heavy rain was the cause.

Landslide closes portion of Spruce Railroad Trail

Debris between tunnels on 10-mile Lake Crescent hike

OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK — A segment of a popular Olympic National Park trail, which opened to the public in December after a multi-year, multi-million-dollar upgrade, is closed again because of a landslide.

The Spruce Railroad Trail, which curves around the north end of Lake Crescent west of Port Angeles, is closed between the Daley Rankin and McFee tunnels.

Heavy rain on Sunday brought down a mixture of trees and soil to cover about 280 feet of the trail, said Penny Wagner, Olympic National Park spokeswoman, on Tuesday. The park posted the closure on its website at www.nps.gov/olym/index.htm on Sunday.

Landslides and downed trees have been reported across the North Olympic Peninsula this week.

Noel Carey of Sequim said he saw trail users this past weekend work their way across the landslide, sinking up to their knees in mud. He estimated the slide could be as deep as 10 to 15 feet.

Access to a large part of the 10-mile trail is still available from either end, from the Lyre River side or the Camp David Jr. side, but “you can’t get all the way through,” Wagner said.

Park crews will wait until the present series of rain storms have passed before attempting to clear the trail, she said, adding she doesn’t know when that will be. Wagner said she didn’t think the trail was damaged.

The trail follows the historic railroad grade of the Spruce Railroad, built in 1918 to harvest and transport aircraft-quality spruce for biplanes in World War I, but never used for that purpose.

It is now a segment of the planned 135-mile-long Olympic Discovery Trail, which will eventually connect Port Townsend to La Push.

It was closed in early March 2020 for construction of the final phase and re-opened in early December.

More than 10 years in the planning and construction, the trail is paved to provide a universally accessible, multipurpose route to be shared by hikers, bicyclists, equestrians and people traveling in wheelchairs.

Environmental studies of the massive project were being done in 2010. The work was completed in segments, with the final phase finished and open to the public last month.

That phase included the restoration of the Daley Rankin Tunnel — the 450-foot-long McFee Tunnel was completed in summer 2017 — and the final 2 miles of trail improvements, including rockfall mitigation and retaining wall construction.

The 8-foot-wide trail was paved, as was the Lyre River Trailhead parking area, which includes space for oversized vehicles and a horse trailer turn-around.

The final portion of the multi-phase project involved a $5 million contract that was awarded to Bruch & Bruch Construction of Port Angeles.

The park received nearly $1 million for this final contract through the Helium Stewardship Act of 2013, which provides cost-sharing funds to the National Park Service to improve infrastructure.

Clallam County provided funding from a combination of other local, state and federal sources for the remainder of the contract.

That included an approximately $2 million grant from the state Recreation and Conservation Funding Board under the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program; $100,000 federal Transportation Alternatives Program grant; $858,000 of federal Surface Transportation Program funding; $750,000 of county funding; and $50,000 from the local Peninsula Trails Coalition.

For updated trail safety information, see www.nps.gov/olym/planyourvisit/conditions.htm.

For more trail, road and travel information, see the park website at www.nps.gov/olym or call the recorded Road and Weather Hotline at 360-565-3131.

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