Damaged trails get boost from windfall - Residents still
concerned about shrinking budget for trail maintenance
Methow Valley News
Methow Valley, WA - Some sorely needed trail funding has come through
for the Methow Valley Ranger District.
At a public meeting in Winthrop last weekend, U.S. Rep. George Nethercutt
of the Fifth District announced that $800,000 of $8 million allocated
for emergency trail repair on Forest Service land nationally will
be spent on trails in and around the Methow Valley.
The money is specifically intended for the repair of trails and campgrounds
damaged by last yearís wildfires and subsequent flooding.
The money, according to district ranger John Newcom, is the result
of a yearlong collaboration between the Methow Valley Ranger District
and the Republican congressman.
"He had been working with us through last summer," said
Newcom. "He came through for us."
Nethercuttís office offered an audience with the congressman after
receiving a letter from Rita Kenny, co-owner of Winthrop Mountain
In her letter, Kenny explained that the trail system is "vital
to our economy and our lives," voicing concern not only about
the status of the damaged trails, but of the shrinking budget for
trail maintenance on Forest Service lands.
At the meeting Saturday (July 31), between 30 and 40 people representing
various recreational forest interests in the valley filled the Winthrop
Town Council chambers to meet with the congressman.
There, some residents expressed their concerns about recreational
trail funding. The extra money this year is great, they said, but
it doesnít address the issue of decreased funding for forest recreation.
"A one-time allocation really isnít going to be that meaningful
in the bigger picture," said Katharine Bill, executive director
of the Methow Conservancy. "But $800,000 is a good start. It
can be multiplied by tapping local volunteer energy."
Funding for trail and campground maintenance has been shrinking for
several years, according to Newcom.
"In the í60s and í70s we had three trail crews working. Now we
only have one," he said.
He said that monies from the controversial Fee Demo program are matched
by the Interagency Committee for Outdoor Recreation and then allocated
to trails, but that the amount raised doesnít offset the loss from
the shrinking recreation budget. He also said that the efforts of
volunteers have been helpful, but even they cost money to coordinate.
While the long-term problem of trail maintenance was not resolved,
Kenny was pleased to see a wide variety of interests galvanized on
"We got an audience with a federal representative and we had
a broad range of users who all agree on the value of recreation,"
she said, adding that local businesses arenít the only victims of
closed or poorly maintained trails.
"Itís not just from being a business owner and counting my dollars,"
itís a quality of life issue, she said. "I came here to recreate."