On Friday, April 8, Washington State Parks celebrated the official opening of the Beverly Bridge. The bridge was a major missing link in the 289-mile long Palouse to Cascades State Park Trail spanning the state. The bridge is not a WWRP-funded program, though many sections of the trail have received WWRP funding. The celebration brought together roughly 600 people, and speakers included Governor Jay Inslee, State Senator Judy Warnick, former Washington State Secretary Ralph Munro, Johnny, Clayton, and Lela Buck of the Wanapum Nation, and representatives from the national Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, Washington State Parks Commission, and one of our very own founders, Fred Wert, representing the Palouse to Cascades Trail Coalition.
The opening of the Beverly Bridge exemplifies the joint efforts of recreationalists and environmental stewards in our state focused on ensuring everyone has access to the benefits of Washington’s outdoors. A land acknowledgement given at the start of the celebration by Johnny Buck of the Wanapum Nation highlighted the connection between people and environment in the past and moving into the future. His words also underscored the idea that the Wanapum, state legislators, environmental advocacy groups, and recreationalists were coming together that day, not only in celebration, but to demonstrate a shared commitment to continuing to care for the land for future generations.
For trail travelers, the bridge marks a significant milestone in nonmotorized access between the eastern and western sides of the state. Many trail users previously ended their travels at the edge of the river to avoid lengthy and dangerous detours across the Columbia. The added continuity in the Palouse to Cascades trail also marked significant progress for the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy’s vision of a Great American Rail-Trail spanning from Washington state to Washington, D.C.
The excitement from the broad range of groups and people present in the crowd spoke to how the bridge fits into a broader vision for preserving our natural spaces and improving access to outdoor recreation. Lela Buck of the Wanapum Nation, shared a message on how our actions today connect to the futures we are shaping: “As you take your animals, as you take your bikes, as you take your feet across this bridge. continue to remember that this here is a place that continues to connect us to who we are and it’ll be here and that all of you, our non-Indigenous people, each and every one of you have a responsibility to help us uphold what has been here and what will continue to be here.”
At WWRC, we have been reflecting on how Washington’s outdoor spaces connect us—to each other, to the environment, to the past and future. The crowd of people drawn to celebrate the opening of the Beverly Bridge demonstrated how this project and others like it—state trails, critical habitat restoration, parks, and beyond—have impact beyond the physical space they occupy. They connect to our relationship with our state’s ecological systems, our wellbeing, and a greener, healthier future.