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The Wild Nearby: Hikers Benefit from Investments in Southwest Washington

Since 1993, we've been working towards a sustainable trail system in the Columbia River Gorge. Thanks to dedication, partnerships, member support and the hard work of volunteers, we can claim these successes in 2019.

Earlier this year, WTA reflected on the years-long investment we've made in trails in the Columbia River Gorge. We started in 1993, when our first board member from southwest Washington joined us. Soon after, we hired staff based in Vancouver so they could listen to what the hiking community wanted, build relationships with land managers and attend public meetings. We wanted a voice in the room. 

That investment paid off. WTA has strong partners at Friends of the Gorge, Trailkeepers of Oregon and the Forest Service. Together, we've built a beautiful trail system, and this year we continued the work that those partnerships make possible at three key locations in the area.

Catherine Creek

Each spring, when the wildflowers peak, thousands of hikers flock to the Catherine Creek trail system to shake off their winter stiffness and revel in the views. That many visitors need a robust and healthy trail system. WTA has been working towards that.

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The 2019 Catherine Creek volunteer vacation crew poses on their completed bridge. Photo by Austin Easter. 

Since the 1980s, we've championed this hiker's haven, encouraging a trails plan and building trails. This summer, a volunteer vacation crew installed a sturdy footbridge, ensuring hikers can enjoy the area and the landscape can thrive for years into the future.

Lyle Cherry Orchard

Lyle Cherry Orchard makes a fantastic year-round destination, with its complexly branching cherry trees accenting the stark landscape. Now, hikers can enjoy an expanding network of trails thanks to work from WTA and Friends of the Gorge. 

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Volunteers are helping extend the trail system at Lyle Cherry Orchard. Photo courtesy Stasia Honnold. 

The area was originally purchased in the 1990s, and the trails at Lyle have been under development since then. Ultimately, WTA and our partners at Friends of the Gorge hope the routes established here can be part of the Gorge Towns to Trails plan, which envisions a trail system connecting hikers to towns that benefit from the recreation economy. 

Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge

A bit farther north of Vancouver lies Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge. This year, WTA volunteers helped Ridgefield staff on several trail-restoration work parties. The goal of this project was to create a trail that feels natural for hikers, while at the same time reducing maintenance needs and minimizing disturbance to wildlife.

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WTA crews are working at this national wildlife refuge to create a trail that keeps the area a haven for wildlife, but helps hikers build a connection to a beautiful place. Photo courtesy Stasia Honnold. 

The Ridgefield recreation planner said that work in this area will help create a place where people can come to be healed and inspired.

WTA’s continuing investment in Southwest Washington has had tangible benefits for our Trails Rebooted work, and WTA's vision of Trails For Everyone, Forever. And it's thanks to our to our dedicated community of volunteers and advocates that we’re ensuring the trails that hikers already love will be around forever, and that people can access green spaces near where they live.

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