Deadline to comment on Olympic wilderness plan fast approaches

Staff reportApril 21, 2013 

The first public scoping comment period for the Olympic National Park wilderness stewardship plan ends Tuesday.

The park has begun the process to create a plan that will determine allowable uses for the park’s wilderness areas.

In 1980, a backcountry management plan was completed for the park’s wilderness and backcountry areas. This plan is now outdated and does not adequately address protection of the area’s wilderness qualities that are essential to effective wilderness management, said Sarah Creachbaum, park superintendent.

This plan will be a crucial document for park managers. Of the park’s 922,651 acres, 95 percent has been declared wilderness. Those areas also are among the most popular wilderness destinations in North America, attracting more than 40,000 visitors each year, said a park news release.

The goal of the plan, according to Creachbaum, is to determine the best use for each wilderness area. That cannot mean, however, that every recreational use will be allowed on every acre, Creachbaum said.

After analyzing comments sent in and gathered during a series of meetings in February and March, park staffers will develop preliminary alternatives for the plan.

Creachbaum said she expects the development of the plan to take two to three years to complete.

More information about the plan, including how to comment, is available at parkplanning.nps.gov/olymwild.

NATIONAL PARK WEEK

As part of the celebration of National Park week, there will be no admission charged from Monday-Friday, including Mount Rainier and Olympic national parks.

At Mount Rainier, there is plenty of snow on the ground for spring skiing, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. The latest storms have pushed the total on the ground at Paradise to 18.75 feet of snow.

The gate from Longmire to Paradise is open 24 hours a day, but may close if unusually heavy snowfall occurs or other conditions are present making the road unsafe for travel, said a park news release. Through April 30, visitors must carry tire chains in their vehicles when traveling on park roads.

On the east side of the park, Washington State Department of Transportation crews are clearing snow from state Routes 123 and 410. There are no confirmed opening dates at this time.

Skate Creek Road (Forest Service Road 52) which travels along the park’s southeastern boundary east of Ashford to Packwood remains closed.

If you are looking for a good location to hike or bike, the Carbon River area is currently snow free to Ipsut Creek Campground.

Olympic National Park will also celebrate National Junior Ranger Day Saturday from 10-2 p.m.

The event is free and is open to children of all ages accompanied by an adult, and will be held at the Olympic National Park Visitor Center in Port Angeles.

Activities are scheduled throughout the day, including 30-minute ranger-guided walks at 11 a.m., noon and 1 p.m. Space on the walks is limited and people should sign up for them when they arrive at the center.

Microscopes will be set up for up-close looks at insects and plants, the Children’s Discovery Room will be open for play and other activities will be offered. Children who complete enough activities can earn National Junior Ranger Day prizes.

From 11 a.m.-1 p.m., several of the park’s pack mules will be at the center.

EARTH DAY FAIR

The annual Earth Day Fair returns to Saltwater State Park on Friday. Students ages preschool to sixth grade are invited to learn about environmental stewardship and about natural ecosystems from 9 a.m.-2 p.m.

Activities will be centered around the event’s theme, “The Next 100 Years Are In Our Hands,” stressing the importance of stewardship and as a tribute to the centennial of State Parks.

Participants will be able to visit exhibits and booths from King County environmental organizations and discover the natural world through programs, touch tanks, games, arts and crafts, guided beach walks and trail walks.

Admission is free. Chaperones are required for students. Classroom and group registration is recommendation. For more information and to register, contact earthdayfair.info@gmail.com or visit saltwaterearthdayfair.webs.com.

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