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Winter access to Hurricane Ridge will be open seven days a week under trial program

Post by Jeff Mayor / The News Tribune on Aug. 18, 2010 at 3:53 pm |
August 18, 2010 4:05 pm

(NPS photo) People like this cross-country skier will be have access to Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park seven days a week under a trial program the next two to three years.
Community efforts have raised the $75,000 needed to help keep winter access to Hurricane Ridge open seven days a week.

The campaign reached its target Monday, allowing Olympic National Park staff to begin recruiting the additional employees and purchasing supplies needed to maintain daily access this winter.

This winter will be the first year of a two- to three-year trial period to provide daily winter access to Hurricane Ridge, while measuring the regional economic and tourism benefits of the new schedule, according to a park news release issued today.

The total additional amount needed to provide seven-day-a-week winter access is $325,000 a year, with $250,000 provided by the National Park Service and $75,000 from the fund-raising effort.

“We are very gratified and humbled by this remarkable level of community support,” Superintendent Karen Gustin said in a news release. “This is a great example of what can happen when we all work together.”

Weather permitting, the Hurricane Ridge Road is open 24 hours a day from early May through October, providing access for hikers and sightseers during the warmer months.

In winter, however, snow blankets the ridge, creating opportunities for winter recreation and challenges for the park’s road crew, including high winds, heavy snows and avalanche danger.

For years, a three-person plowing crew has worked full-time to provide
three-day a week winter access to the Ridge, costing $467,000 out of the park’s $13 million annual operating budget.

This spring, a delegation from the City of Port Angeles visited Park Service officials in Washington, D.C., asking that the additional funding needed for seven-day-a-week plowing and emergency services be added to Olympic’s annual budget.

In response, the service opted to contribute $250,000 each year for the trial period and asked the community to provide a matching
amount.

The fundraising campaign, led by Port Angeles councilwoman Cherie Kidd and Russ Veenema, director of the Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce, began with donations from those organizations
and $20,000 from the City of Port Angeles’ economic development fund and $2,000 from the chamber. Another $20,000 given by Clallam
County, $5,000 from the City of Sequim and $3,000 from the Olympic
Peninsula Tourism Commission.

The Hurricane Ridge Winter Sports Club organized fundraisers of its own, contributing $16,000. The remaining amount was contributed by area businesses and individuals.

On average, the Hurricane Ridge Road is open about 80 percent of the scheduled days in winter; the remaining 20 percent are closed by inclement weather that can range from hurricane-force winds, heavy snowfall, extensive drifting and avalanche.

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