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January + February 2010 » Washington Trails

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Trail News »

Trails Affected »

Icicle Gorge

Chatter Creek

Jack Creek

Icicle Creek Scoping Begins

Jackpine

The Forest Service tackles the Icicle Creek Road washout

Blackpine

The Forest Service has begun the public pro- cess for restoring access to one of Washington’s most-loved and well-traveled forest roads—the Icicle Creek Road out of Leavenworth.

The Icicle Creek Road hosts many trailheads and campgrounds in its upper reaches, provid- ing trailhead access for a host of high-country trails and camps in the Alpine Lakes Wilder- ness. Those deeper wilds up the Icicle have been out of reach by car since May 2008, when high snow levels and a rapid increase in early summer heat caused a debris avalanche that blocked Icicle Creek and flooded the road.

The Icicle Creek Road was underwater for months, which seriously degraded the roadbed. Hikers still ventured uproad, climbing over washed-down debris fields, but many family hikes, such as the Icicle Gorge Loop, are out of reach for younger hikers. Even strong hikers have many miles of road-walking to contend with to reach wilderness trailheads like Jack and Chatter Creeks. Despite some trailheads remaining open, many great opportunities have been lost for two seasons now.

This is not the first time that this section of the Icicle Creek Road has been underwater. Frequent water over the road in flood seasons has caused resource damage and impaired public safety in the past. Reconstruction on a new alignment could mitigate some of those perennial issues.

as “scoping”—to refine their plans for the road.

Washington Trails Association is excited to see this process start, because the Icicle is such an important part of our recreational road in- frastructure. That said, we will have questions as the project moves forward. We’re confident that the district will work hard to keep silt out of the water and to rehabilitate the floodplain of the Icicle.

Blackjack Ridge

Icicle Creek

Road relocation comes at a significant cost. Beyond the money needed to rebuild the road according to a new alignment, the agency will have to embark on a long and complex environ- mental process that carries the risk of chal- lenges by the public. We will continue to track the district’s plans for the Icicle and keep the hiking community informed. t

Water over the Icicle Creek Road, May 2008. Photo by Lace Thornberg.

Get Involved

The official public comment period ended November 9, but comments will continue to be accepted as the analysis is completed. The sooner you’re able to provide comments, the more consideration they’ll be granted. Additionally, the more specific your comments are the more helpful they are to the ranger district. A complete environmental analysis will be released within the next few months, after which there will be another thirty-day comment period before a final decision is made.

Contact the Wenatchee River Ranger District by sending an email to comments_wenatchee_river@fs.fed.us. Include “Icicle River” in the subject line.

To remedy the situation, the Wenatchee River Ranger District has proposed to reconstruct and relocate 1.5 miles of road between Big Slide and Ida Creeks and decommission the old roadbed into a trail. They are just starting to gather pre- liminary data and comments—a process known

Alternately, you can mail the district a letter addressed to Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, Wenatchee River Ranger District, 600 Sherbourne, Leavenworth, WA 98826.

Hikers can also call Project Team Leader Don Youkey at (509) 548-2580 with questions.

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