Commission approves new segment of Olympic Discovery Trail

Posted 6/19/19

County commissioners voted unanimously June 17 to begin building the new portion of the Olympic Discovery Trail.

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Commission approves new segment of Olympic Discovery Trail

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County commissioners voted unanimously June 17 to begin building the new portion of the Olympic Discovery Trail.

Their vote approved a resolution to create a new segment of the Olympic Discovery Trail from the end of the Larry Scott trail at Four Corners Road to Anderson Lake State Park, for a total length of approximately 2.4 miles. This will bring the trail one step closer to its goal of connecting the Larry Scott Trail to the Olympic Discovery Milo Curry trailhead on state Route 101. The work approved by commissioners will include the preliminary engineering of the project and allow the Public Works Department to begin land acquisition on a willing seller basis.

Funding for the project will come from the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office, which awarded funds to Jefferson County for the planning, acquisition and development of the shared-use trail.

Preliminary engineering will cost $175,000, while right of way acquisition will cost $434,000, for a total of $609,000, all of which will be appropriated from the RCO funding.

The decision was met by applause from the audience, as members of the public filled every chair of the Board of County Commissioners chambers to give public comment during the hearing Monday morning.

“I’ve resided in Jefferson County for 58 years,” said Richard White, a former Jefferson County Commissioner, who was one of the many people involved in the start of the project since its inception 30 years ago. “A trail from Port Townsend to the ocean would be a great economic development for our county. We were trail starters back in the day, and I can only hope you will continue the tradition.”

The Olympic Discovery Trail has been in the works since 1988, as trail enthusiasts, cyclists, horseback riders and local community members have worked to acquire rights of way to build a tail connecting Port Townsend to Port Angeles and on to the Pacific Coast.

After construction to Anderson Lake State Park is complete, the next step will be to find a route south to connect to Eaglemount road.

In order to build any section of trail the county must first acquire the correct land rights and permits.

Several members of the public brought up their concerns about land acquisition at the public hearing, especially those who will be on the pathway, who wondered how they will keep people from coming onto their property. But others dispelled their worries.

“Currently the trail bisects my property and just so homeowners know, I’ve never had a problem with security ever,” said Juelie Dalzell, who is a member of the Backcountry Horsemen of Washington and said she enjoys the Larry Scott trail for horseback riding. “The trail has been such a boon to us. We want to see the continuation of the trail so we can ride all the way to the coast.”

John Fleming of Jefferson County Public Works said the land acquisition is what will dictate the cost, timeline and final route of the project.

“The sellers control the whole project,” he said in an interview in May “It evolves day by day, that’s why a simple thing like a seven-mile trail has taken 25 years to complete.”

Rep. Steve Tharinger, D-Port Townsend, secured the initial $1 million from the Washington State Legislature to fund the Eaglemount study. He echoed Fleming, saying the most difficult part of the project will be the acquisition, even more difficult than securing the rest of the funding from the Legislature to build the trail and buy the land.

Tharinger estimates the total cost will be upwards of $7 million with costs to build the trail out to Anderson Lake of at least $3 million.

Plans for the trail will eventually take it right through Anderson Lake state park, which contains one of the most toxic lakes in the state, but the issue was not brought up by any members of the public during the hearing.

“The lake issue isn’t something that should preclude the trail being there,” said Eric Kuzma, an architect with Jefferson County Public Works department. “I think it is solvable, and it’s possible that the momentum of having the trail there might make the solution happen quicker.”

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