Railroad Bridge Park, birthplace of Olympic Discovery Trail, to be feted for 20th anniversary
By Diane Urbani de la Paz
Peninsula Daily News
Print This | Email This
FOUR DAYS OF arts and music comes to Port Angeles — buy your tickets now! (And . . . FREE pre-festival show Thursday) -- 5/19/13 -12:39 PM
Oh, well . . . winning Powerball ticket potentially worth $590.5 million sold in Florida -- 5/19/13 -10:48 AM
COMING MONDAY: Discover the hidden treasures of your own backyard! -- 5/18/13 -11:43 PM
10 to receive Jefferson County Heart of Service award Tuesday -- 5/18/13 -11:34 PM
Railroad Bridge Park, the site of a nearly century-old trestle across the wild Dungeness River, is turning 20 this year, and community members are invited to a party with cake, lemonade and a bridge stroll Friday afternoon.
“We have so much to celebrate,” said Lyn Muench, president of the Dungeness River Audubon Center, the visitor center at 2151 W. Hendrickson Road.
The party will start with refreshments and displays at 4:30 p.m. Friday in the amphitheater just outside the River Center.
At 5 p.m., Jamestown S’Klallam Tribal Councilwoman Theresa Lehman and Chris Gutmacher, president of the Peninsula Trails Coalition, will share the park’s story.
It began when the wooden bridge was built in 1915.
Chapter One saw trains crossing it for 70 years hence.
Then, in 1985, it began an idle period that would last until 1992, when a group of volunteers, including members of today’s Peninsula Trails Coalition, floated the idea of converting it into a place to walk, bicycle and just listen to the river.
With a state grant and 1,000 hours of volunteer labor, the bridge was redecked in 1992, and the first half-mile of the Olympic Discovery Trail through Clallam County was born.
The trail now extends east and west of Railroad Bridge Park for more than 40 miles; legs of it run through Port Townsend, Sequim, Port Angeles and points west.
The ultimate vision for the Discovery Trail, still maintained by the Peninsula Trails Coalition, is for it to stretch from Port Townsend to the Pacific Ocean at LaPush.
Walk into Railroad Bridge Park on a given summer day, and it’s clear: This is a refuge for every kind of creature.
Children squeal as they step into the Dungeness and fish swim around their toes; a few hundred yards away, four young deer wade in for drinks. Dippers flit and hop among the rocks, and chickadees sing in the forest canopy.
And people — mothers with kids in strollers, boys on ultralight bicycles, a guy with three huge dogs — come across the bridge.
This trestle carries a river of people: the counter installed by the River Center tallied 131,000 crossings during 2011.
Just outside the Sequim city limit, Railroad Bridge Park is 22 acres of relief.
Muench once heard from a Sequim business man who comes out to the bridge whenever he has a few minutes, simply “to calm down.”
The park “is entirely different from everything that surrounds it,” added Sue Chickman, a member of the River Center board.
“All of a sudden, you come into this beautiful, natural environment. It transforms my being.”
The park’s caretakers are the Jamestown S’Klallam tribe, the Olympic Peninsula Audubon Society and the Dungeness River Audubon Center, which offers bird walks for all ages, field trips for school children and several festivals through the year.
And the tribe, Muench added, hopes to work with surrounding landowners to keep expanding the public space.
“That’s coming,” she said, “in the next 20 years.”
To learn more about Railroad Bridge Park and the River Center, see www.DungenessRiverCenter.org or phone 360-681-4076.
Features Editor Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5062, or at email@example.com.
Last modified: August 15. 2012 6:17PM