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Low visitation forces Olympic National Park to scale back access to Hurricane Ridge

Post by Craig Hill / The News Tribune on Oct. 17, 2012 at 9:08 am |
October 17, 2012 9:08 am

Low visitation is leading Olympic National Park to close the road to Hurricane Ridge on most weekdays during the winter.

After a two-year trial to study the economic impact of a daily road schedule, the park has decided to return to a Friday-Sunday winter plan starting next month.

“Despite the best efforts of our local community, Olympic National Park employees and National Park Service staff in Washington, D.C., weekday winter access to Hurricane Ridge did not lead to a sufficient increase in visitors,” Todd Suess, Olympic National Park Acting Superintendent, said in a prepared statement. “Unfortunately, given the fiscal realities of today, we cannot justify the use of over $325,000 in community donations and taxpayer money to maintain weekday winter access to Hurricane Ridge Road for a relatively small number of people.”

Port Angeles community leaders successfully lobbied the NPS for a two-year $250,000 annual funding increase while the community added $75,000 each year. The park set a goal of reaching 45 percent of its five-year average of winter weekend visitors. It only averaged 19 percent.

Most of the park’s roads, including those leading to popular rain forest and coastal destinations, are located at lower elevations and remain open year round.

Weather permitting, the Hurricane Ridge Road will be open Friday-Sunday, 9 a.m. to dusk through the winter season, plus Christmas through New Year’s Day week, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and Presidents Day.

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