Winter storms wreaked havoc in the national parks and forests of the Cascade and Olympic mountains, and the budget impasse in the other Washington means there is no money for repairing trails and campgrounds.
If a solution isn’t found quickly, the problem could affect local, tourism-based economies. Federal funds for emergency repair will go first to individuals and for bridge and highway repair.
“We have been looking at (other) funding sources where we can get money for backcountry areas,” Sen. Parry Murray, D-Wash., told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
Winter flooding destroyed campgrounds and streamside trails, washed out roads and rearranged some of the scenery. Damage in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest has been estimated at about $500,000, but budget cuts and the Capitol Hill impasse have left the U.S. Forest Service with no money to hire crews.
“There is money for repairing the roads, but - right now - not the trails and campgrounds,” said Gary Paull, trails coordinator at Mount Baker-Snoqualmie.
“It doesn’t look good at all,” said recreation manager Monty Heath at the Wenatchee National Forest, which has at least 18 severely damaged campsites.
About 600 of the 2,500 miles of trails in the forest had been scheduled for maintenance before the floods.
“The flooding adds to an already bleak picture,” Heath said.
The ongoing budget impasse between President Clinton and Congress has resulted in week-to-week continuing resolutions to finance Forest Service operations, “which makes it difficult to plan the hiring you will do in June,” said Ryland Hardman, public-services manager in the Darrington Ranger District.
Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt told the P-I the administration expects to request $109 million in supplemental funds for flood-damage repair in the Northwest.
But he’s not sure the money can get to federal agencies in time to repair trails this season.
“The buds are already on the trees,” Babbitt said. “It will be a close fit.”
Here are some examples of damage in places where city folks and tourists go hoping to find peace and quiet:
Floods washed away 250 feet of the Stehekin Valley Road, which provides shuttle-bus access to the North Cascades National Park from the north end of Lake Chelan.
About half the 100-car parking lot at Rialto Beach was covered with sand, logs “and essentially is the beach right now,” said Barb Maynes at Olympic National Park. A 1,000-foot section of the Hoh River Road was washed out by November flooding, though the National Park Service hopes to reopen it in May.
The northwest section of Mount Rainier National Park is inaccessible because floods washed out roads leading to the Carbon River and Mowich Lake areas. It is not yet clear what the impact was on the 90-mile Wonderland Trail system that circles the mountain.