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5 Year Campaign Aims to Create Nearly 60 New Miles of Hiking Trails in the Gorge

Posted by ryanojerio at Sep 06, 2011 08:48 AM |

The Friends of the Gorge recently launched a new campaign aimed at creating a linked network of new hiking trails in the Columbia River Gorge. Dubbed "Gorge Towns to Trails" or simply GT2T, the guiding vision calls for a comprehensive trail system that improves access to the Gorge's many outstanding natural landscapes, waterfalls and vistas while supporting tourism in Gorge communities.

The Friends of the Gorge recently launched a new campaign aimed at creating a linked network of new hiking trails in the Columbia River Gorge. Dubbed "Gorge Towns to Trails" or simply GT2T, the guiding vision calls for a comprehensive trail system that improves access to the Gorge's many outstanding natural landscapes, waterfalls and vistas while supporting tourism in Gorge communities.

While Friends is leading the effort, they are seeking input from WTA and other trail user groups, as well as from Gorge residents, elected officials and the Forest Service. During this first year, the main focus will be on outreach to stakeholder groups and developing the partnerships and volunteer capacity to support the campaign.

Specific projects are already in the works, such as the Lyle Cherry Orchard Trail and the Washougal to Stevenson Trail. The upper portion of the Cape Horn loop will be incorporated in the Washougal to Stevenson Trail. However, the remaining twenty-some miles have not been formally planned even though 90% of the potential corridor is on public land.

Anticipating this future link, some hiking enthusiasts recently started mapping and building a trail on Forest Service and DNR lands between Cape Horn and Beacon Rock State Park called the "Cruzatt Rim" Trail. Hoping to put a stop to any further illegal trail construction, the Forest Service posted the trail closed as soon as they got wind of it and are moving to deconstruct it. We blogged about this issue on July 29th.

Meanwhile Renee Tkach, Program Manager for the GT2T campaigns aims to steer clear of the conflict between clandestine trail "builders" and the Forest Service. Rather she hopes to tap into the ideas and vision of the hiking community while building local buy-in and raising the private funding needed to support an official trail building efforts.

Interestingly the GT2T concept is not entirely new. The Chinook Trail Association has a similar goal for a Gorge-wide loop trail that was envisioned by the organization's founders in 1986. And the Friends of the Gorge published a proposal for 40 new Gorge trails back in 1988 (some of those ideas have been realized like the Stiegerwald NWR, Sandy River Delta, and the Cape Horn Trail). Hopefully this new effort will add some momentum to trail development for the next 25 years in the Columbia River Gorge.

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