Rocky Reach Trail section opens

Hikers walk north along the Rocky Reach Trail after joining about 50 people at the ribbon-cutting ceremony on July 2 at Lincoln Rock State. (Jim Russell photo)

 

By Jim Russell

A ribbon-cutting ceremony celebrating completion of the first phase of the Rocky Reach Trail (RRT) was held July 2 at Lincoln Rock State Park. The first phase extends south from Lincoln Rock State Park for 0.9 miles along the east bank of the Columbia River in Douglas County to a Scenic Overlook Interpretive Station near the Rocky Reach Dam.

When completed, the RRT trail will extend south another 4.5 miles to connect with the Apple Capital Loop Trail immediately north of the Odabashian Bridge.

The RRT trail has been a vision of the Complete the Loop Coalition, a local nonprofit corporation of volunteers, which has raised funds and support for public trails since its founding in 1990 by Bob Parlette and the late Dr. Gordon Congdon Sr. Its first success was the Loop Trail in 1994 and by 2015 the trail will run from Lincoln Rock State Park to Kirby Billingsley Hydro Park, south of East Wenatchee, and around the Apple Capital Loop on the west side of the Columbia.

Parlette and Ann Congdon, the daughter of Dr. Congdon and a Chelan County PUD District 3 commissioner, talked about the power of the idea lasting 20 years when Parlette and her father first envisioned the extension to Lincoln Rock.

Calling Parlette, “one persistent guy,” Ann Congdon said, “He promised my dad on his death bed to carry the torch forward on this trail.”

Speakers praised the inter-agency cooperation and community support for this project. Bill Fraser, retired regional state parks director in North Central Washington, received his first assignment to support the Complete the Loop Coalition’s proposed project to build a trail right-of-way along DOT property. “After he retired in 2012, he joined the Complete the Loop Coalition as a volunteer ?on the board,”

After years of work, five years of legal battles over concerns by orchardists were needed to secure the permits and funding to begin construction. Parlette specifically praised Douglas County Prosecutor Steven Clem who led the legal team that achieved the unanimous state Supreme Court approval to construct the Rocky Reach Trail.

Normal trail hours are 6:30 a.m. to dusk, but orchardists were respected by limiting hours during spraying season. The sign leading to the trails says, “Seasonal Trail Hours, Agricultural Area ahead 0.9 miles. April 1-June 30, Noon to Dusk.”

Funding for the northern extension has come from Complete the Loop Coalition, Chelan County PUD, DOT and the Washington State Legislature.

Private donations to the Complete the Loop Coalition have been aided by matching funds from Confluence Health and Eliot and Tina Scull. Parlette emphasized that agriculturalists have contributed significant sums through the leadership of Doug Pauly from Northern Fruit and the late Bill Hamilton, ?attorney, judge and small orchard owner from East Wenatchee.

The Complete the Loop ?Coalition is still fundraising for the RRT. “Any excess collected by the Complete the Loop Coalition will be used for maintenance and extension of the trails on Rocky Reach.”

This summer, construction should begin on the one-mile extension north of the Loop Trail. The 3.5-mile middle section through the orchard areas to the overlook is scheduled to begin after orchardists have completed their 2014 fall harvests. The DOT ?is completing agreements on right-of-ways across lands owned by state parks, DOT and the Chelan County PUD.