There's a wonder being built in Clark County, Washington—piece by piece, segment by segment. This "once in a lifetime-type opportunity," as Dan Miller of the National Park Service calls it, will connect communities via 50 miles of multimodal trail, from Washougal to La Center.
The Lewis and Clark Regional Trail, a massive undertaking, has been a dream since the '60s. The plan for it, and the sections of it already completed, are the result of years of creativity, dedication and compromise between hundreds of jurisdictions, organizations and passionate community members.
What is it?
The goal of the Lewis and Clark Trail project is to build a regional trail that will link the southeast corner of Clark County to the northwest corner and beyond, following the Columbia River. This effort is firmly committed to strengthening regional partnerships to achieve positive impact, stretch funding dollars and better leverage limited resources.
When complete, this regional system will provide 50 miles of continuous trail, increasing recreational opportunities and improving public health. The vision for the trail, which follows the path of the 19th century Lewis and Clark Expedition, includes components that share history of the expedition, history of the land and its Native peoples, viewpoints, rest areas, connection to local communities and more. Other goals for the trail include enhancing economic development, supporting alternative transportation, and providing a quality outdoor experience for residents and visitors alike.
The trail will reflect the diversity of the Northwest, including the natural tranquility of two federal wildlife refuges, urban vitality, friendly locations, small town charm, waterways, forested areas and beautiful viewpoints. It will connect to the Bi-State Regional Trails System that reaches into the state of Oregon. At the southwest border in Washougal, the trail will connect to the Columbia River Gorge loop trail also known as Towns to Trails.
Each city along the route has made efforts to develop trail sections. We are thankful for the work everyone has put into this project, and celebrate the success of each mile completed. Exciting efforts include but are not limited to:
Due to many factors, we don't have a specific timeline for trail completion. Each jurisdiction along the path is working on segments. Fundraising efforts, grant awards and budget priorities will help make the trail a reality. Clark County will continue to track trail segment efforts and provide updates.
How did we get here?
Regional trails such as this take a lot of work, partnership and coordination. The path to the June 2020 unveiling of the final Lewis and Clark Regional Trail Concept Plan was full of learning. In sharing this history with Intertwine Alliance partners, we hope to inspire your own long-term partnership efforts.
In 2015, Clark County Public Works discussed potential partnership projects with The Intertwine Alliance. As an outcome of these discussions, Clark County submitted a National Park Service Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance program grant application to create a concept plan for the Lewis and Clark Regional Trail.
A National Park Service Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance, or RTCA, program grant was awarded to Clark County in 2016. It provided the support needed to guide stakeholder discussions, concept trail design, map planning and town connections. The results of this work are published within the final trail report.
Initial collaborative meetings were held in January and November of 2017. A trail-planning charrette—a kind of meeting in which all stakeholders attempt to resolve conflicts and map solutions—included 14 volunteer landscape architects; nine students from area colleges; two high school student ambassadors; and 50 participants representing city governments, area ports, national wildlife refuges, nonprofit groups, Cowlitz Indian Tribe members, area parks staff, the National Parks Service, trail advocates and interested residents.
The charrette focused on five segments of trail that were divided geographically in order to review maps and determine the best plan for the trail. Another group focused on design and trail attributes that would be important to everyone interested in the project.
Additional meetings with stakeholders were held in 2018 and 2019 to further define the alignment of the trail. Regional map reviews were held in the cities of Ridgefield, Vancouver and Camas.
It is important to note that the initial leadership of The Intertwine Alliance and the professional work of Dan Miller and Brianna Truden though the NPS RTCA program made this project a success. We firmly believe that this assistance helped bring everyone together and gave the project strong credibility. We are forever grateful for their work.
On June 4, 2020, Clark County Public Works and the National Park Service coordinated an online meeting to share and celebrate the final concept plan with over 75 individuals and stakeholders involved in the project since 2016.
The presentation included a brief overview, trail segments planned and completed in each jurisdiction along the conceptualized route, and next steps. Several videos—Introduction to the Lewis and Clark Regional Trail, The Planning Process, The Trail Route and The Lewis & Clark Regional Trail Concept Plan—were presented as part of the report completion celebration.
The county sincerely thanks Dan Miller for his steady leadership and dedication to this project, and Brianna Truden for her patience in creating multiple maps for teams to review. Her artistry is reflected in the report design and layout. The final report reflects the dedication of everyone involved.
Clark County will work to keep the momentum going, seek funding opportunities and continue to press forward to see this project reach fruition. Working together, stakeholders will share resources, develop common themes, preserve the county’s rich history, improve local commerce and most importantly – provide opportunities for individuals and families to enjoy the beauty of the trail.