The #1 question we've received since Discover Lewis County launched pertains to the status of two new bridges on the Willapa Hills Trail: Why can't we ride/walk on them just yet?
We reached out to Washington State Parks for an answer to this question, and while the answer is somewhat simple, we should probably lay a bit of background first.
The Willapa Hills Trail was once an active rail line that carried the Northern Pacific Railroad through Chehalis, Adna, Doty/Dryad and Pe Ell on the way to South Bend. After trains rolled on the tracks for nearly a century, the line was vacated with the goal of developing the vacated track into a rails-to-trails project. That project has been ongoing for awhile, and has required some transformation of bridges spanning the Chehalis River, along with other improvements.
Enter the flood of 2007. Remember how powerful the water was along the Chehalis River? That rushing water washed away several bridges, including the old railroad bridges that carried tracks over the river at Spooner Road and Doty/Dryad Road, creating two large gaps in the trail system.
Work over the past few years has been extensive on other sections of the trail: paving the portion between Chehalis and Adna, putting in crushed gravel to make the trail navigable, installing signs, etc. But work only began on the Spooner and Dryad bridges last year.
Now to answer the question: the contractors are just about done with the bridges, but you'll notice there are still signs noting that the trail near the two bridge sites is closed. Those signs are still up because the bridges haven't been inspected yet. That's coming soon, though, as State Parks officials will meet with the contractors this week at one bridge site to determine what work remains and figure out a final deadline for all the work to be completed. If all goes well, it could be mere weeks, if that, before we're all able to access the bridges freely.
We can't put an exact timeline on it, but each day that passes is one day closer to seeing two major connections on the Willapa Hills Trail open again. Once they do, you'll be able to take a fat-tire bicycle from far west Adna along Spooner Road into Pe Ell and beyond. That's worth getting excited about, and it's no wonder so many people are chomping at the bit to see the project finished!
In the meantime, let's all do our part to help the crews on each bridge site. Even if you see no construction equipment there, please respect the trail closure signs and don't venture out onto the structures. We'll all be able to get out there soon enough!
(Photo included is of the Spooner Road bridge, provided by Washington State Parks)
— Sept. 16, 2015