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Ice Age Trail gathers pieces of a puzzle

Locals add theirs


Russ Powers, from Electric City, briefs an audience at a meeting on the Ice Age Floods Trail on Electric City's Pathway and Revitalization project, one of several efforts to revitalize local walking trails in the area. - Scott Hunter photo

The National Park Service Ice Age Floods National Geologic Trail is like a giant jigsaw puzzle; the whole is there to see, but the problem is how to put the pieces together.

Denise Bausch, NPS chief of interpretation and education for the Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area and Ice Age Floods, told about 40 people Monday that "partnerships" with communities and groups along the way would be the key to the trail's success.

The meeting was held Monday afternoon in Coulee Dam's community room at town hall.

Bausch stated that important pieces of the Ice Age Trail are right here before our eyes. The "coulee," with its scablands, canyons and the Dry Falls area, are here to see and the key is to find a way to get the message out to visitors coming to the area.

Bausch explained that while Congress approved the concept of an Ice Age Floods Trail, no funds were appropriated to support the plan.

That's where partnerships come in, the "importance" of local groups putting pieces of the overall puzzle together a piece at a time.

The puzzle casts its footprint over a four-state area, stretching from Glacial Lake Missoula in Montana, through Northern Idaho, Washington, and Oregon to the mouth of the Columbia River, and south of Portland all the way to Eugene.

There are a lot of wrinkles from the massive floods along the way, many of them in our own area.

Bausch explained that the Ice Age dams backed up water, some 500 cubic miles of it, repeatedly some 13,000 to 17,000 years ago. Periodically, the dams would break, sending water crashing through the area. The flow of water after such spills was more water than flows through all the rivers in the world today.

The NPS will coordinate the Ice Age Trail, and would like to review any signage before it is placed, Bausch said just prior to the meeting.

Bob Valen, a former NPS employee now affiliated with the Coulee Area Park & Recreation District, highlighted a number of existing trails in the area, the most extensive being the Down River Trail extending from the Coulee Dam Bridge about six miles north along the river. Valen focused on a number of small trails and the wayside exhibits along both sides of the bridge.

He asked for people interested in being part of a group that would do the work, and several responded.

Gayle Swagerty, a member of Coulee Dam's town council, brought those attending up to speed on the Candy Point Trail. It was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1935, about a mile long and with a rise of 700 feet. The granite staircase trail received a lot of repair work by the local Rotary Club in the 1990s. Now, interest in the trail has grown and parts of the original trail have been re-worked.

Russ Powers, deputy clerk at Electric City, outlined the city's 25-year Pathway and Revitalization project that includes sidewalks, two new city parks and an Ice Age Trail through the heart of the city.

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