Celebrating Three Years of the Great American Outdoors Act 

On August 21, U.S. Congresswoman Kim Schrier, Washington State Representative Bill Ramos, and King County Councilmember Sarah Perry joined Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest Supervisor Jody Weil and Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest Supervisor Kristin Bail at the Denny Creek/Franklin Falls Trailhead to celebrate projects funded by the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA) in the Mountains to Sound Greenway National Heritage Area (Greenway NHA). 

The GAOA, enacted on August 4, 2020, is the single largest investment in public lands in U.S. history. It established the National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund to address the deferred maintenance and repair backlog on public lands. It was authorized at up to $1.9 billion annually for five years from fiscal year 2021 to fiscal year 2025. 

Congresswoman Kim Schrier represents Washington’s 8th Congressional District, which includes part of both the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie and Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forests. The Congresswoman voted in support of the GAOA and has been a dedicated champion for public lands in the state. 

Congresswoman Kim Schrier stands on a podium speaking in front of the Denny Creek construction site
Congresswoman Kim Schrier speaking at the GAOA celebration event

The Greenway NHA as Context and Catalyst for GAOA Work 

 In 2019, Congress designated the Mountains to Sound Greenway as a National Heritage Area (NHA) – a lived-in landscape where natural, historical, and cultural resources help to tell a compelling, nationally significant story. 

The Greenway NHA provided the context for assembling a package of 17 GAOA projects across the landscape. The Mountains to Sound Greenway National Heritage Area Multi-Asset Investment Corridor (Greenway NHA Corridor) connects the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie and Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forests and seeks to promote greater collaboration and coordination. The US Forest Service partners with local nonprofits including the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust (Greenway Trust) and Washington Trails Association (WTA) to leverage additional resources and expertise such as trail design, project management, trail crews, and volunteer mobilization to help move large-scale projects forward across the landscape.   

You’ll frequently find these three collaborating on projects across the Greenway NHA! Pictured (from left): Mike Stenger, Greenway Trust Recreation Projects Manager; Alex Weinberg, Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Snoqualmie Ranger District; Mackenzie Dolstad, Greenway Trust Field Programs Senior Manager

“This area is about more than great opportunities to recreate amid the towering trees, cascading rivers, and dramatic mountain peaks that surround us.  

It also helps to preserve, honor, and respect the history and living heritage that is inextricably woven throughout this landscape – the old growth forests that still stand nearby at Asahel Curtis, the stretch of the old Sunset Highway that some of you drove along to get here, the unbroken relationships that Tribes maintain today with the lands, waters, plants, and animals.” 

Jon Hoekstra, Greenway Trust Executive Director

GAOA Impacts on the Ground Within the Greenway NHA 

The GAOA celebration took place at the Denny Creek/Franklin Falls trailhead, where a parking lot expansion project is currently underway. Denny Creek and Franklin Falls are very popular recreation destinations, which commonly see hundreds of cars parked along a narrow forest road, causing unsafe conditions for people as well as ecological damage to the forest.  

The project will increase parking capacity by 72 spaces, including additional Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) parking, and construct a loop road that will help alleviate traffic congestion concerns. This project is funded by the GAOA as well as the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office. 

Group touring a parking lot expansion project
The group toured the Denny Creek/Franklin Falls project that’s currently underway

Other recent GAOA-funded projects within the Greenway NHA Corridor include work on popular trails such as Annette and Snow Lakes; improvements to the Pratt River Bar in the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River Valley; Asahel Curtis Nature Trail upgrades; replacing deteriorated concrete picnic tables at Ken Wilcox, Cle Elum, and Beverly campgrounds; addressing trail maintenance backlog needs across the Cle Elum Ranger District; replacing and updating more than two dozen informational kiosks across the Cle Elum Ranger District; and more. 

Before and after photos of trail work on the Annette Lake Trail
GAOA-funded work on the Annette Lake Trail
Before and after photo of steps on the Snow Lake Trail
GAOA-funded work on the Snow Lake Trail
New bear boxes in the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River Valley

GAOA funding in the Greenway NHA Corridor area totaled $7.2 million in fiscal year 2021 and an additional $6 million in fiscal year 2022. These projects will result in safer and more sustainable outdoor experiences within the I-90 corridor, which has been particularly susceptible to the challenges of a rapidly growing population and increased interest in outdoor recreation. 

Celebrating Partnership and Collaboration 

We are grateful for the commitment and support of Congresswoman Kim Schrier to pass the Great American Outdoors Act that is funding these projects and so many more all across the country; to the entire U.S. Forest Service team in the Regional office in Portland, the Supervisors offices in Everett and Wenatchee, and the District Rangers in North Bend and Cle Elum; to our state and local elected officials who continue to invest in stewardship of public lands; and to the many nonprofit partners like WTA, Backcountry Horsemen, and Northwest Youth Corps who are helping with implementation. 

As with all things in the Greenway NHA, our collective impact with a shared vision is so much greater than what any one of us could achieve on our own. This event was a true testament to that – a celebration of all that we’ve accomplished together, and an important reminder that our work is never truly done.  

Want to see more investments made in public lands? We encourage you to voice your support for more funding for public land management at all levels of government.