Trails: The Great Connector

September 24, 2020

WWRC would like to acknowledge that this story takes place on the traditional lands of the Nłeʔkepmx Tmíxʷ (Nlaka’pamux), Syilx tmixʷ (Okanagan), and Okanagan people. We honor with gratitude the Tribes and their land on which we work, play, learn, and organize today.   

A 1,200 mile trail isn’t built in a day. It’s built section by section, mile by mile, often out of order until things finally connect. And the people in Oroville, WA, a small town with a population just under 2,000, know a thing or two about how these small sections of trail add up to something bigger. In 2011, Oroville celebrated the completion of a 3.5 mile section of the Similkameen Trail.

Just outside of town, the Similkameen Trail offers breathtaking views of the river gorge along with opportunities for hiking, biking, and birding. Funded in part by a WWRP grant, this trail connects with other county trail systems in the area. It also connects to the Pacific Northwest Trail, a 1,200 mile trail that spans from Cape Alava on the Olympic Coast all the way to Montana’s Glacier National Park.

Photo courtesy of Jen Coleman

Recognized as a National Scenic Trail, the Pacific Northwest Trail is mostly unmarked and is known for its rugged terrain, off-trail bushwhacking, and Class 2 and 3 scrambles. Coming across the relative luxury of a section like the Similkameen Trail is surely a welcomed respite for any thru-hiker.

But trails connect more than just land and provide experiences beyond just adventure and technical trail skills. During its construction, the Similkameen Trail became an opportunity for local youth to invest in their community while gaining valuable job skills.

Photo courtesy of Jen Coleman

Through a collaborative effort between the Pacific Northwest Trail Association, Okanogan County, WorkSource, and the local public school districts, the Similkameen Trail was constructed with the help of a local youth trail crew.

This program provided local youth with paid summer employment, school credit, and job training to help them transition into the workforce. It also taught them the importance of investing in community. In return, the trail now helps to bring critical tourism revenue to Oroville. 

Photo courtesy of RCO’s PRISM Database

Project Highlights

Project: Similkameen Connector Trail

County: Okanogan

WWRP Grant Category: Trails

RCO Grant Award: $688,666

Matching Funds: $688,670

Status: Completed 2011

Want to know more about WWRP Trails grants? Download the Earth Economics Field Guide below.