Trail Would Connect Yakima to Mt. Rainier (WA)

Yakima, Washington, 6/24/05 — The William O. Douglas Trail is the vision of connecting existing public pathways, trails and conservancy lands that would form a continuous, 75-mile long trail from the City of Yakima to Mt. Rainier. There are 13 significant historic/cultural interpretive sites along the trail route.

Surprisingly, over 90 percent of the potential trail route already exists as public pathways, conservation lands and public lands. Complete linkage could be achieved by using additional public rights-of-way, private easements, and purchase of key properties from willing sellers. The idea is to provide an unbroken trail for hikers, bikers, snowshoers, cross country skiers and anyone else wishing to relive the William O. Douglas experience and behold the natural beauty of the Yakima region.

Today, the Cowiche Canyon Conservancy and the Trust for Public Land (TPL) will hold a dedication ceremony at Snow Mountain Ranch on Cowiche Mill Road. The ceremony will recognize the1,800-acre Ranch as an important recreation and conservation purchase that is a key link in the Douglas Trail vision. TPL orchestrated the purchase of Snow Mountain Ranch for the Cowiche Canyon Conservancy earlier this year. TPL also helped form the Greenway Foundation over 25 years ago and purchased the first 50 acres of the Greenway yet another link in the Douglas Trail vision.

Other parts of the Douglas Trail vision that are already in place include the Cowiche Canyon Rail Trail and the existing trails on Forest Service lands. Additional linkage is possible through state wildlife property and the newly purchased Snow Mountain Ranch which are adjacent to one another in the Cowiche Creek area. Part of the Douglas Trail vision lies on the existing Wilderness lands above Rimrock Lake named for the famous Yakima native.

William O. Douglas grew up in Yakima and attended Columbia Grade School and Yakima High School. He was raised in a very poor, single-parent family. He was stricken with polio as a child, and developed a life-long passion for hiking in order to strengthen his weakened legs.

Through hiking, Douglas overcame polio. Through persistence and hard work while attending public schools in Yakima, he overcame economic obstacles to became one of the most influential justices on the U.S. Supreme Court. His opinions were characterized by a fierce commitment to individual rights and a powerful distrust of government power. Franklin D. Roosevelt came close to picking Douglas as his running mate in the 1944 presidential election, which would have made Douglas President upon Roosevelt’s death in 1945. Douglas wrote 32 books, several about hiking in and around the Yakima Valley and hiking from Yakima to the high Cascade Mountains.

The vision of the Douglas Trail is an opportunity to connect communities, to further Yakima’s profile as a recreation destination and to add yet another feature to the economic redevelopment of the region. Some supporters of the trail vision have begun to cast the idea as a matter of community pride showcasing the great local recreational potential of the region. Promoting such recreational resources in the Yakima region is intended to diversify the economy and enhance the significant tourist draw to the wine country.

The full trail experience would take the traveler through 12 distinct ecosystems from the arid shrub steppe of the Yakima Valley, through sparsely treed transitional rain shadow lands to mixed conifer forests and ultimately to dense mountain forests and alpine areas. Along the way a traveler could appreciate sweeping Valley views, spring wildflower shows and a rich diversity of natural settings and wildlife.

The Cowiche Canyon Conservancy is a 300-member local land trust. The Conservancy has operated the popular Cowiche Canyon Rail Trail for several years. An electronic eye at its trailheads has verified that several thousand people use the trail each year.

The Trust for Public Land is a national nonprofit land conservation organization that conserves land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, and other natural places, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. Since its founding in 1972, TPL has helped protect more than 1.9 million acres of land in 46 states. In Washington, TPL has protected more than 47,000 acres.