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With high usage, county parks will see changes


County park usage increases; connection sought for Crown Zellerbach Trail

by: FILE PHOTO - Glen Crinklaw, Columbia County's assistant public works director, stands on the Crown Zellerbach Trail bridge near Scaponia Park on Scappoose-Vernonia Road. Completed last year, the bridge was the final of many built on the trail. Columbia County is pushing to make some changes at its parks with the upcoming addition of an online campsite reservation system and the long-discussed connection of the 23-mile-long Crown Zellerbach Trail to the 21-mile-long Banks-Vernonia Trail.

Park usage is also on the rise, officials said, generating revenue 8 percent higher than the same time last year.

Glen Crinklaw, Columbia County’s assistant public works director, said the county’s parks had a robust Memorial Day weekend with clear weather and full campgrounds. He said the Crown Zellerbach Trail has also started to see more use, despite having no official opening.

“I’m a regular user of the Crown Zellerbach Trail,” Crinklaw said, noting he commutes to work on the trail every day by bicycle — a 24-mile trip one way.

“I was heading home yesterday afternoon and noticed there was a substantial number of bike tire tracks I hadn’t noticed the week before. There must’ve been a lot of people using the trail, which is good,” he added.

Crinklaw said the Columbia County Forests, Parks and Recreation Department is focusing its attention on connecting that trail to the Banks-Vernonia Trail, which would amount to a total of 44 miles of continuous trail. The parks department still has some hurdles to jump before connecting the trails, however.

“We’ve completed crossings. You can pretty much go from the Columbia River to to the outskirts of Vernonia without getting your feet wet on the Crown Zellerbach Trail to within a mile of Anderson Park, where the two trails would link up in Vernonia,” Crinklaw said.

Crinklaw said the Crown Zellerbach Trail stretches to within 600 yards of Knott Street — the westernmost line of Vernonia’s city limits. The trail, however, lies against a steep hillside, making construction of a connecting trail more difficult. The location for that connection would also put bikers, runners, equestrians and hikers on Highway 47 for about a half-mile, he said.

Instead, the county hopes to connect the trails via a nearby Weyerhaeuser logging road, now defunct, if granted approval.

“We’ll approach the Weyerhaeuser company and private landowners where some trail right-of-way would be cut in to make that connection,” Crinklaw said. “We’re real focused on that piece. We hope to get the right-of-way approved this summer.”

Regardless of how the connection works out, Crinklaw said he hopes crews can get to work as soon as possible on trail-cutting.

“We’d be in there immediately, so we’d have something close to a connection the following summer,” he said. “Hopefully it will go smoothly.”

Crinklaw said the Columbia County Forests, Parks and Recreation Department made it through the 2014-15 fiscal year budgeting process “very well,” with park resources intact. He said the department can now fund construction of an additional restroom facility at Camp Wilkerson and acquire a lease from the Oregon Department of State Lands for usage of Dibblee Point on the Columbia River near Rainier — a popular fishing spot at which the department plans on increasing accessibility.