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Contact: Barb Maynes, 360-565-3005
A community effort to raise $75,000 to help fund daily winter access to Hurricane Ridge reached its target on Monday, giving the go-ahead for Olympic National Park staff to begin recruiting the additional employees and supplies needed to maintain daily access this winter.
This winter (2010-11) is now set to be the first year of a two-to-three year trial period to provide daily winter access to Hurricane Ridge, while measuring the regional economic and tourism benefits of the new schedule.
The total additional amount needed to provide seven-day-a-week winter access is $325,000 annually, with $250,000 provided by the Washington, D.C. office of the National Park Service (NPS) and $75,000 provided by the people of Clallam County.
"We are very gratified and humbled by this remarkable level of community support," said Olympic National Park Superintendent Karen Gustin as she accepted a $75,000 replica check from the "People of Clallam County" at yesterday's Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce meeting. "This is a great example of what can happen when we all work together."
Weather permitting, the Hurricane Ridge Road is open 24 hours a day from early May through October, providing access for hikers and sightseers during the warmer months. In winter, snow blankets the Ridge, bringing opportunities for winter recreation and challenges for the park's road crew, including high winds, heavy snows and avalanche danger,.
For many years, a three-person plowing crew has worked full-time to provide three-day a week winter access to the Ridge, costing $467,000 out of the park's $13 million annual operating budget. "We've known for a long time that the community supports daily winter access, and under the park's operating budget, we were able to maintain a Friday through Sunday schedule," said Gustin.
This spring, a delegation from the City of Port Angeles visited NPS officials in Washington, D.C., asking for the additional funding needed for seven-day-a-week plowing and emergency services – be added to Olympic's annual budget. In response, a unique opportunity for community-NPS cost sharing was offered, with the NPS to contribute $250,000 each year for a two to three year trial period and the community providing a matching amount.
This set in motion a community fundraising campaign, led by City of Port Angeles Councilwoman Cherie Kidd and Russ Veenema, Director of the Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce. Donations from these organizations included $20,000 from the City of Port Angeles' economic development fund and $2,000 from the Chamber.
Donations also came from beyond Port Angeles, with $20,000 given by Clallam County, $5,000 from the City of Sequim and $3,000 from the Olympic Peninsula Tourism Commission. The Hurricane Ridge Winter Sports Club organized fundraisers of its own, contributing $16,000 towards the overall effort. The remaining amount was contributed by area businesses and individuals.
"Thanks to these generous contributions, Olympic is now able to recruit and hire the additional employees needed to maintain a seven-day-a-week work schedule," said Gustin. "The winter season always brings its own challenges, however, so we know that weather-related closures will still occur."
On average, the Hurricane Ridge Road is open about 80% of the scheduled days in winter; the remaining 20% are closed by inclement weather that can range from hurricane-force winds, heavy snowfall, extensive drifting and avalanche.
More detailed information about the winter road, facility and interpretive program schedule will be released this fall.