Sometimes restoration activities can take months or even years to appreciate the results. Tree-planting for example, can take ten years to even look like new trees—or longer. Stream restoration can take several seasons for the first fish to return. Road removal however, can have nearly instant results—at least to the eye.
This past summer and fall, the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust removed 11 miles of unused roads on the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest and surrounding state lands near the town of North Bend, Washington, completing a total of 22 miles of road decommissioning in the Granite Creek Basin. Six miles of those roads were converted into a hiking trail.
The new trail will provide access to Thompson Lake and the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. Bell also explained that a new $22 million federal paving project on the Middle Fork Snoqualmie Road will mean there will be “a lot more people coming” from the service area of 3 million people. With the influx of visitors the removed roads and new trail will help “get people out in the woods” said Bell.
In addition to providing an expanded recreation opportunity, removing the roads supports the environmental health of the forest. Initially, it was estimated that 80-85 culverts were in the project area; so far Greenway Trust has removed more than 100, opening up and restoring natural stream habitat for cutthroat and rainbow trout as well as mountain whitefish.
“We’d like to leave a lasting legacy in the area,” said Tor.
The project had been many years in the making. Some of the project was on state land and some on federal National Forest land. Without funding for both halves, the project couldn’t happen. The Washington Department of Natural Resources had the funding; unfortunately, the Forest Service did not. This is where the National Forest Foundation stepped in. Through the NFF Matching Awards Program, Greenway Trust was able to receive funding to match the state funding and cover the Forest Service half to complete the entire project.
It’s hard not to be excited about our National Forests and the restoration taking place when you see the before and after photos from this project. Work done on this public-private partnership will endure and continue to add to the value of the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest and the greater Seattle area.