An outburst of community support -- worth $75,000 -- will allow Olympic National Park crews to try to keep the Hurricane Ridge Road open daily throughout the coming winter.
While many associate Olympic with surf-kissed beaches and tangled rain forests, the Hurricane Ridge area is a snow magnet in winter and lures visitors for skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing. But in past years, the park has only ensured access up the Hurricane Ridge Road from early May through October. During the winter months the park spent $467,000 to hire a three-person crew to plow the road so a small ski area on Hurricane Ridge could operate on weekends.
Park Service officials agreed to a two- or three-year pilot program to see if keeping the road open year-round would improve tourism business -- if the surrounding communities could contribute to the cost.
The total additional amount needed to provide seven-day-a-week winter access is $325,000 annually, with $250,000 provided by the Park Service and $75,000 provided by Clallam County. The $75,000 local contribution was reached earlier this week.
“We are very gratified and humbled by this remarkable level of community support,” said Olympic Superintendent Karen Gustin as she accepted a $75,000 replica check from the “People of Clallam County” at the Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce meeting on Tuesday. “This is a great example of what can happen when we all work together.”
The local fund-raising campaign was led by City of Port Angeles Councilwoman Cherie Kidd and Russ Veenema, director of the Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce, according to the Park Service. 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 Superintendent 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 percent of the scheduled days in winter, according to park records. The remaining 20 percent are closed by inclement weather that can range from hurricane-force winds, heavy snowfall, extensive drifting and avalanche.