Clallam first in line for funds to take trail through old railroad tunnels
When does 1 equal 999,000?
When 1 is Clallam County's ranking atop 36 hiking/biking trail proposals in Washington and $999,000 is the money it hopes to receive from the state.
The funds would restore two tunnels on the long-defunct Spruce Railroad on the north shore of Lake Crescent.
The World War I-vintage rail bed is the backbone of western segments of the Olympic Discovery Trail.
Clallam County's share — mostly in leveraged federal funds — is $1.23 million for a total project worth nearly $2.23 million.
The funds aren't certain, said Rich James, Clallam County senior transportation planner who is godfather to the ODT.
They still must be approved by the board of the Recreation and Conservation Office — formerly the Interagency Committee for Outdoor Recreation — and be allocated by the Legislature next year, he said.
Others in top 5
Still, it's an accomplishment to lead a list of projects whose state aid total nearly $29.5 million.
Other North Olympic Peninsula projects were among the state's top five:
The Spruce Railroad was started in 1918 to carry spruce — lightweight but strong — from the North Peninsula to aircraft factories.
Soldiers did the work but didn't finish the job before the war ended. That left the Peninsula with a perfectly good railroad between Lake Pleasant and Port Angeles.
Trail makes tracks east
There, it met with tracks of the Seattle, Port Angeles & Western Railway that had begun service to Port Townsend in 1915.
In 1931, the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway — better known as the Milwaukee Road — bought the line.
Its route survives in namesake Milwaukee Drive on the city's west side, and its old roadbed along the Strait of Juan de Fuca and further east lies beneath many segments of the trail.
Craig Jacobs, county public works director, said the top five projects almost surely will be funded even if those lower on the list are cut by budget reductions.
Restoring the tunnels will give hikers and road bikers an alternative route around Lake Crescent and into the county's West End.
Off highway around lake
They presently must use U.S. Highway 101 for parts of their journey or negotiate a steep route around the tunnels.
"That's going to open up the whole Lake Crescent corridor," said James.
Commissioner Mike Chapman of Port Angeles said, "Somebody must have done a great job" to get the No. 1 ranking.
"Congratulations. That's amazing."
Chapman was elected to his first two terms as a Republican but is seeking re-election as an independent candidate. He faces the GOP's Terry Roth on the Nov. 4 ballot.
As for the Olympic Discovery Trail in the East End, it now has been paved from the Sequim city limits to Sequim Bay State Park.
A grand opening of the Sequim to Blyn segment also will take place this fall, James said.