Open house will gather ideas for developing Nisqually River trail

The Nisqually River Council is working to develop a Nisqually River Water Trail from below LaGrande Dam to the river’s mouth.
The Nisqually River Council is working to develop a Nisqually River Water Trail from below LaGrande Dam to the river’s mouth. Staff file, 2010

The Nisqually River Council will hold an open house Thursday to gather opinions as it continues development of the Nisqually River Water Trail.

The River Council is leading the project to prepare a plan for the development and management of a water trail on the main stem of the Nisqually, from below LaGrande Dam to the river delta where it meets Puget Sound within the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge.

The goal is to develop public access points along the river for launching and taking out small human-powered boats, such as rafts, canoes, kayaks and inner tubes, while respecting current and future conservation efforts. The river and a number of its tributaries are important spawning habitat for salmon and steelhead.

While 75 percent of the Nisqually River shoreline is now held in permanent conservation, public recreation access to the river is extremely limited. Access near the mouth of the Mashel River, for example, has been delayed because Washington State Parks does not have the funding to develop Nisqually-Mashel State Park.

Creating the Nisqually Water Trail would implement the “Recreation/Public Access/Tourism” goals of the Nisqually Watershed Stewardship Plan that was developed in 2003-04.

The council will work to create a collaborative planning process inclusive of all landowners along the river and with other stakeholders, said Morgan Greene, program coordinator for the council.

“To help with the planning process, we would like to hear from you,” Greene said. “Do you raft, hike, bike or picnic on or near the Nisqually River? Do you value the watershed for a particular reason? Your thoughts will help us decide the best options for the water trail.”

Because the council doesn’t own any of the land along the river, it will work with those who do when it comes to deciding where to locate and when to build access points, she said.

The council is entering the second of the two-year planning process, Morgan said. In the first year, the council established an advisory committee, identified some of the opportunities and issues, opened a public survey and hosted a focus group workshop.

“We hope to have a final plan about this time next year, with final recommendations. We’ll outline further actions and how to implement them,” Green said.

Because the council will have to work with landowners and find funding sources, Greene said they have not set a target date to begin any riverside projects.

Working with the council, the National Park Service’s Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance program will provide technical planning help, according to a council news release.

The council is made up of representatives of 24 local, county, state, federal and tribal organizations.


OPEN HOUSE: The meeting will be held from 6-8 p.m. in the library of Yelm Middle School, 402 Yelm Ave. W.

ONLINE: An online survey, open through Dec. 4, is available at surveymonkey.com/r/NisquallyRiverWaterTrail.