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County park attendance up, CZ Trail near completion

by: SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: ROBIN JOHNSON - Completed in July, the Crown Zellerbach Trail bridge near Scaponia Park on the Scappoose-Vernonia Highway is the last of the trails many bridges to be built.Runners, bikers, equestrians and hikers can now travel the Crown Zellerbach Trail from Scappoose to Vernonia without touching the water.

Glen Crinklaw, Columbia County’s assistant public works director, said the recently constructed bridge near Scaponia Park completes the continuous 23-mile trail from the Multnomah Channel to Vernonia.

“Now you can travel the whole distance of the trail without getting your feet wet,” he said.

Crinklaw, who oversees county parks, said the addition of the bridge, which opened last month, solves a safety issue for many equestrians, hikers and bikers. Equestrians frequent Scaponia Park for its close proximity to the Crown Zellerbach Trail, Crinklaw explained, but they had been forced to travel on the Scappoose-Vernonia Highway for a short distance in order to avoid the deep gully the bridge now crosses.

“After we finished the bridge, it was rewarding to see horse manure at the end of it,” he joked.

According to Crinklaw, the project took more work on his part in order to complete due to a tighter budget. He said the bridge was budgeted at $76,000.

“On previous crossings, we had decent funding,” he said. “With this one, we had rather lean resources. It got to the point where I had to become a heavy equipment operator.”

Crinklaw said park occupancy has rebounded this year from its 2010 plummet.

“We’re seeing higher early season and higher mid-week use,” he said. “Occupancy for July was up 15 percent from last year, and up 30 percent from the 2010 low.”

The Crown Zellerbach Trail is mostly finished, Crinklaw said, but a one-mile section remains to be completed in Vernonia that would connect the trail to the Banks-Vernonia State Trail. The connection to the Banks-Vernonia State Trail would add another 21 miles of unobstructed trail.

Crinklaw said the county will need to purchase the remaining mile in Vernonia from a timber company before developing it into a connecting trail.

Crinklaw added that the grand opening for the trail — initially scheduled for early June — was delayed due to a landslide at the intersection of Walker Road and Scappoose-Vernonia Highway.

“The trail intersects with an active slide,” he said. “The landslide is slowly moving down a hill. An estimated 4,000 cubic yards of material needs to be removed. It will present some challenges.”

The material excavated from the landslide will be used as fill material for a parking lot along the trail near Chapman, Crinklaw said.