Wilderness Watch is urging the National Park Service to adopt a wilderness-compatible alternative for addressing the boardwalk on the Cape Alava and Sand Point trails in Olympic National Park in Washington. Ninety-five percent of the Park is designated Wilderness, including this northwestern corner on the Pacific Coast. The trails start from the Lake Ozette trailhead, which is Olympic National Park’s busiest trailhead for overnight wilderness use. About 70 percent of the 13,533 feet of boardwalk is damaged.
The NPS is looking at three preliminary alternatives to address the condition of the boardwalks, two of which include massive amounts of helicopter use. One alternative includes 178 to 250 round-trip helicopter trips over five years, and the other alternative, which involves replacing some of the boardwalk with turnpike (ground-level wood boxes filled with gravel and soil), includes 690 to 835 round-trip helicopter trips. A third no action alternative continues the Park’s current management where small sections of boardwalk are replaced by carrying in materials when possible (which could include frequent trail closures).
The NPS must do better for Wilderness in Olympic. This extensive boardwalk is inappropriate in Wilderness. Before replacing it, the NPS should determine if the trail is necessary, and consider rerouting it to a different location. The NPS could close the trail and divert people to points south of the area. The agency could also reduce the number of visitors to the area, or it could remove the boardwalk and let people have a wilderness experience where visitors accept conditions as they are. If the NPS decides to rebuild the boardwalk, it needs to do so without motorized equipment. Volunteers could assist by hauling in boardwalk pieces.
Photo: egonwegh via Flickr