Yacolt Burn

Older Douglas-fir trees (center) still show burn scars from the massive Yacolt Burn wildfire of 1902 in southwest Washington state.

Those who enjoy hiking in Yacolt Burn State Forest may see the benefit of $126 million distributed statewide, with the forest receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars to improve trails there.

On July 2 the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Funding Board announced the award of grants to more than 300 projects statewide, with several focused in North County, specifically in Yacolt Burn. 

Though Clark County as a whole received close to $5.5 million, analysis of the list of projects shows money with benefit to North County totaling more than $1.1 million. Of that funding, more than $400,000 was specific to North County, with the other funding part of multi-country projects.

The money granted was funded from federal grants, the sale of state bonds, gas taxes and user fees; matches from benefitting agencies totaled close to $142 million.

“Not only do these grants support our state’s parks, forests and farms, but they also fuel a powerful outdoor recreation economy that puts about 200,000 people to work and generates more than $26 billion in spending every year,” Governor Jay Inslee said in the announcement. “At a time when public lands are more and more at risk of being developed or lost altogether, these grants prioritize our outdoor spaces so that current and future generations can continue to enjoy and protect them.”

“The funding creates more places to play, expands habitat for fish and other wildlife, supports clean air and water, and upholds healthy communities across Washington state and improves our quality of life,” Recreation and Conservation Office Director Kaleen Cottingham added. 

Grants benefitting

North County

La Center received $75,000 to cover half the costs to improve drainage and irrigation at the Holley Park ball fields, according to the project list. 

Alongside allowing for the fields to be used more, the new systems funded in part by the grant will keep stormwater away from the East Fork Lewis River and nearby wetlands, aiding in the conservation of fish habitat in the river.

Outside of Holley Park, the grants with North County impact are focused on the Yacolt Burn. One grant of $100,000 will cover about 70% of the cost for the Washington State Department of Natural Resources to replace two bridges on non-motorized trails on the Tarbell Trail System in the western part of Yacolt Burn State Forest.

A few grants will help to improve the off-road vehicle areas of Jones Creek trail. $25,000 in funds will support the efforts of Piston’s Wild Motorsports and the Jones Creek Trail Riders Association as they purchase maintenance equipment and tools to improve motorized trails in Clark County, including the latter group’s namesake. Piston’s is also contributing $35,000 in donations of labor, according to the project list.

Jones Creek trail will also receive some more support as part of a $177,000 grant maintaining both those trails and the Bradley Hills off-road trail in Wahkiakum County. The DNR project is estimated to be $233,500 for the work in Yacolt Burn.

DNR received $150,000 from a grant that will fund a natural resource technician and trail crew to maintain non-motorzied trails, spanning from the Larch Mountain trailhead to the South to Moulton Falls to the North. Work funded by the grant will include maintenance on the trails themselves and at trailheads, repairing restrooms and other facilities, according to the project list. In total, the project is estimated to cost about $250,000.

Yacolt Burn will also benefit from a $174,000 grant aimed at funding a full-time warden for the Pacific Cascade Region, of which the state forest is a part. The project list gives a variety of duties the position will have, including patrol and enforcement in more than 210,000 acres in the region; identifying health, safety and resource concerns; and providing public outreach.

Included in the grant are funds to buy electronic equipment “intended to deter crimes and increase public safety,” according to the project list. The grant is estimated to cover about 60% of the DNR project’s cost.

Multi-county work

Both Clark and Cowlitz counties will see benefit from a roughly $102,000 grant to provide maintenance to motorized trails in the Cowlitz Valley Ranger District of the US Forest Service. The grant will help to fund hiring trail crews to maintain 230 miles of motorized trails and seven campgrounds over two years, supported in part by an estimated 2,000 hours of volunteer labor through the Volunteers of Lewis River Trails and Southwest Washington Off-Road Riders Association. Total cost for the project is proposed to be close to $213,000.

Clark and Thurston counties are receiving money for clean toilets, as $150,000 came from a grant to maintain restrooms in Capitol and Yacolt Burn state forests. Facilities maintenance funded in part by the grant includes several locations including Cold Creek and Rock Creek campgrounds as well as the Yacolt Burn and Larch Mountain trailheads.

Yacolt Burn is also one of more than three dozen properties across Western Washington benefitting from $62,500 awarded to the Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance for trail maintenance, including plans for 20 new miles of trail in the region, according to the project list. Work done in Yacolt Burn is anticipated to be close to $31,000 in maintenance total.

A $197,000 grant for the Washington Off Highway Vehicle Alliance will include work at Yacolt Burn, with a maintenance project of about $4,300 benefitting from some of the funding.

North County will also benefit from a $75,000 grant to facilitate volunteer trips to maintain trails statewide. Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument is one of the regions receiving support of the project, with a total cost of the work there estimated at $15,300.

The Recreation and Conservation board, the entity behind the grant awards, formed following a citizen initiative in the 1960s, according to the release. Since then the board’s work has “improved the state’s quality of life through its investment of public funds in parks, trails, beaches, boating facilities, wildlife habitat and natural areas.”

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