PORT TOWNSEND — Jefferson County commissioners heard Monday of possible routes for the extension of the Olympic Discovery Trail between the recently constructed segment along South Discovery Bay and the Larry Scott Trail at Four Corners.
The county was awarded funds through the state Recreation and Conservation Office (RCO) for planning, right-of-way acquisition and preliminary engineering of the Eaglemount segment of the Olympic Discovery Trail (ODT).
State Rep. Steve Tharinger, who attended the meeting, said $1 million was designated for this phase of the project that began in 2015.
The report by the consultant team of Alta Planning + Design, Loving Engineering and Northwest Environmental Consulting, LLC examined potential off-use multi-use trail alignments connecting the Larry Scott Trail at the Milo Curry Road trailhead to the recently completed ODT segment at the southern tip of Discovery Bay.
The report designates three segments — north, central and south — and offers three alternatives for each.
Recommended options by-pass state Highway 20, it said.
“[The decision] is driven by safety now,” said John Fleming, County Public Works engineer. “We are trying to alleviate the congestion and safety issues with the mixing of cyclists and motorists.”
Fleming, said current alternatives for bicyclists to get from Four Corners Road to South Discovery Bay include the shortest route, state Highway 20, which has a distance of 7 miles and an elevation of between 600-700 feet. The other paved alternative is state Highway 19 to Center Valley Road, and then state Highway 104 to the intersection connecting with U.S. Highway 101 which is about 19 miles.
He also said there are county roads between West Valley Road, Eaglemount Road and Anderson Lake Road that provide alternates to reach Discovery Bay.
The public will have a chance to respond to plans next month during a public hearing, which has not been set yet, to review the findings before the next phase of the project begins.
The report can be found under the Olympic Discovery Trail briefing item on the agenda at https://tinyurl.com/PDN-eaglemountODT.
Tharinger, a Port Townsend Democrat, said after the presentation that the trail is almost half done.
“We’ve been working on this for 30 years,” said Tharinger, who represents District 24 which covers Jefferson and Clallam counties and part of Grays Harbor County.
“The Eaglemount piece, from Four Corners to Discovery Bay, has been one of the more challenging pieces just because of the topography and the landowners and no real clear existing right of way,” he said.
“The funds were given to RCO to manage and we’ve been through Phase 1 with the help of the Peninsula Trails Coalition and its advisory committee that had done about 6,000 hours of volunteer time to support the effort to do research and ground trooping,” Fleming said.
This segment runs between 10-18 miles and Fleming hopes to get that done in less than half the time it took to complete the Larry Scott Trail- 25 years.
“The magic will be in dealing with three-to-four larger land owners and other governmental agencies instead of 49 different property owners like with Larry Scott,” Fleming said.
Eaglemount’s elevation is 920 feet, but Fleming said there is a view of 360 degrees at the top — the reward for the effort to get there.
The next steps are to accept the report, focus on the north section and acquire the rights of way and design the trail to Anderson Lake State Park, a distance of 2.4 miles, some of which goes through Pope Resources property, officials said.
Pope Resources has agreed to enter into a land exchange agreement for the county to define a trail. The project will include obtaining permits and creating cost estimates.
Tharinger appreciated the focus on the trail and acknowledged other items facing the county.
“You have a lot of needs and a limited budget for county roads and other items,” Tharinger said. “To focus on a trail and put hours into it, it’s tough to make that a priority. I appreciate that the road department and the board have made that a priority.
“The challenge is that the dollars can’t be moved around. It just happened that dollars are available and in my position of capital budget chair I know where the different categories of funding are.”
He said the trail not only provides a multi-modal system for use locally and a health and wellness attribute, but also is important economically.
“The data is solid,” he said. “When I ride the trail, I usually run into someone from Germany or somewhere else and they are spending $200 a day.
“This trail not only provides a multi-modal system for us locally and a health and wellness attribute, but it does provide an economic driver.
“With all the needs you have, I appreciate that you take the time to spend on this.
“My work on this, and the work the county has put in, the consultants have put in, and the support of the board is really huge,” he continued.
”It looks like within the next couple years we’ll have this piece figured out. Maybe not all of it will be constructed, but getting the right of way – getting that pathway determined — is the most important piece.”
When completed, the Olympic Discovery Trail will have grown to 134 miles connecting Port Townsend to La Push.
This trail section would be incorporated into the 1,200-mile long Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail running from Glacier National Park in Montana to Ozette and the 3,700-mile coast to-coast Great American Rail-Trail, county staff members said.
Jefferson County Reporter Jeannie McMacken can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at [email protected].