When does a forest road disappear?
You’ve seen them on hillsides in the Mountains to Sound Greenway – long zig-zags crossing the mountains, former logging roads that brought trucks up and trees down.
But when a forest road is no longer used, and especially if it leads to a splendid view, perhaps it is time to turn it into a trail.
Unmaintained forest roads deteriorate quickly, causing erosion and increased sedimentation into nearby waterways, and creating an easy path for invasive weeds to flourish. Removing unused roads reduces maintenance costs for public agencies and provides better habitat for wildlife and native plants.
Two road decommissioning projects are underway in the Greenway this year, including the removal of nearly 6 miles of logging road to the top of Mt. Tenerife, a 4,788-foot peak in the Mt. Si Natural Resources Conservation Area. Greenway contractors and crews are pulling up the road bed with heavy machinery and reducing its footprint to a trail width, and will assist the land managing agency, the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR), with the installation of bridges this fall.
In 2012, the Greenway Trust completed the removal of twenty two miles of abandoned roads in the Granite Creek Basin, in the Middle Fork Natural Resources Conservation Area, in a partnership project with the state DNR and the U.S. Forest Service with support from the National Forest Foundation. Six miles were converted to recreational trails, leading to the scenic Granite lakes. And the project allowed removal of culverts and other barriers to fish passage along Granite Creek, improving habitat for fish such as native cutthroat and rainbow trout.
The new trail to the Granite Lakes Basin provides additional recreational capacity in the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River Valley, a place once plagued by illegal activity, which will see vastly increased recreational use when the reconstruction of the Middle Fork Road is completed in 2016.
More than 60 miles of unused forest roads have been removed by the Greenway Trust and our partners, resulting in: a significant reduction in agency forest road maintenance requirements; a substantial improvement in environmental conditions through the removal of thousands of culverts and barriers to fish passage and water flow, and the prevention of ongoing sedimentation and erosion into waterways; and, last but not least, an improvement to the recreational opportunities that make the Greenway such a special place.
USDA Forest Service Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest
Washington State Department of Natural Resources
King County Wastewater Treatment Division
National Forest Foundation