This summer, CCWRC leadership and collaborating partners drafted a grant application to the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office. We’re requesting $200,000 to conduct an Environmental Assessment on the non-motorized winter rec trails at Crystal Springs (including Erling Stordahl and the Sled Dog Trails) and Cabin Creek, and we need your help to secure match for the project. What’s an Environmental Assessment, why do our popular trails need one, and what can you do? Read on!
When skiing became popular in the Cabin Creek and Crystal Springs area, much of the land was owned by private timber companies who allowed our recreational past times. As part of the decades long “Checkerboard Project”, many of those private parcels were purchased by the United States Forest Service (USFS) in the mid 1990’s. Under current federal policy, an Environmental Assessment must be completed on USFS owned and managed land before any maintenance, improvements, or expansion of trail systems is allowed. That means neither the Cle Elum Ranger District, nor any of our user groups, can conduct trail work until USFS has documented the current conditions. Expanding groomed trail opportunities, like the proposed project at Amabilis, is also out until the assessment is complete.
We know our trails are substandard; many of them were converted from old logging trails, and contribute to erosion, rutting, and runoff into streams and rivers. The USFS uses the term ‘hydrologically unstable’ to describe a system like ours, but we cannot do drainage improvements or trail bed smoothing until the Environmental Assessment is complete. We had hopes in 2010 that the Upper Yakima Environmental Assessment project would cover our trail systems, but alas, this project was never funded and dropped.
That brings us back to the Recreation Conservation Office and its NOVA (Nonhighway and Offroad Vehicle Areas) grant. The USFS estimates that an Environmental Assessment will cost ~$200,000 to complete. Working with local USFS and Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust staff, we’ve built a strong case for the need, but NOVA grants are notoriously competitive, and we must demonstrate financial match for the project. We must raise at least 10% of our requested funds ($20,000) to win points in the match category. The USFS and outdoor clubs have committed $16,500 so far, and now we’re working to close the gap with personal pledges.
If you are willing to pledge funds, please contact Nicky Pasi, our grant lead with the Mountains to Sound Greenway, at email@example.com by January 29th. Nicky will keep the tally to demonstrate our commitment to RCO, but is not accepting funds. If we are successfully awarded this grant, we at CCWRC will collect the pledges and remit the funds to USFS.
NOVA funding comes from ORV permits and a portion of the state gasoline tax paid by users of ORVs and non-highway roads (roads not supported by state fuel taxes), which include Forest and National Park Service roads. About 1% of all state fuel tax revenues go into the NOVA account, which is just one of the grant funds RCO manages. 46% of RCO’s grant requests this year were from USFS, directly competing with needs from other land management agencies such as State Parks, WADNR, and WDFW. All struggle with chronic shortages of funds to manage the impacts our growth, never mind develop new or updating old facilities. If you look at the grant awards in the variety of programs, you will see many agencies that used to fund this sort of routine work internally, but no longer have the means to do so. Competition is fierce, and we must demonstrate our community’s buy-in for the Crystal Springs and Cabin Creek Environmental Assessment. Without it, we may lose access to these trails before we’re ever able to expand them to meet growing demand for winter recreation.
Below photo is of Rollercoaster, one of the main trails in Erling Stordahl last year after a wet event.