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Wilderness Beach Trail Will Be Reconstructed Tribe’s Plans For New Route Bolstered By State Grant

A Makah tribal project to complete a permanent trail to Shi Shi Beach on the Olympic Peninsula has received a $167,110 grant from the state.

The tribe hopes to complete the trail by next fall.

The wilderness beach south of Neah Bay is known for its tide pools and sea stacks and is one of the wildest stretches of wilderness beach on the West Coast.

The easiest public access to Shi Shi - a former U.S. Coast Guard road built in the 1950s over about three miles of tribal lands - has been closed for more than six years. The tribe shut the deteriorating trail in April 1991 over concerns about liability to several private landowners and maintenance problems.

More than 7,000 people visited Shi Shi annually before the trail was closed.

The only other access to the beach is from the south, but it requires a long hike and an often-impassable crossing of the Ozette River.

A previous effort to relocate the main trail failed due to problems with purchasing rights of way. The new proposed route requires fewer right of way purchases, said Alice Langebartel, Makah realty coordinator.

“The trail will be about three miles long, and there is money in the grant for improving the road and parking lot and installing a concrete gate,” Langebartel said Friday. “I’m optimistic we can get this done ahead of schedule, even though we have until 1999 to use the grant.”

Shi Shi is a simplification of Sh’ahsha-ees, Makah for “surf beach.”