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Posted By Toutle Trekker

The Spirit Lake Highway all the way up to Johnston Ridge is open now, a month earlier than usual.  I was up hiking at the Hummocks Trail yesterday, and was surprised to see the gate to Johnston Ridge open.  Looks like someone smashed into it.  The road is plowed all the way to the Johnston Ridge parking lot.  Even with the recent hot weather, there's still about 3-feet of snow in the parking lot and on the trails.  The views of Mount St. Helens yesterday from the Loowit Viewpoint were spectacular, with the lava dome steaming, and the Toutle River reflected in the evening light.  People were out hiking the South Coldwater Trail, which looks like it is melted out some but expect TONS of snow past the logging equiptment.  The Lakes Trail along Coldwater Lake is almost snow free to the end of the lake, but "doing the loop" between the Lakes Trail and South Coldwater would mean major hastles with snow and steep drifts.  The Hummocks Trail is clear, and we hiked up the Boundary Trail until the creek crossing on the flat (about 1000 feet climb) where the snow took over.  Time to get an early start on the hiking season.


Posted By Toutle Trekker

I wanted this story be about success.  I've been waiting to write for almost two years now, working behind the scenes.  It should have been a snap, easy-peezy.  Just one phone call and the illegal "no trespassing" signs come down, the public is allowed back in, all is operating as intended (and required).  Unfortunately, it hasn't quite work out that way.    

Posted Gate
I discovered that 260 acres of public land on the Toutle River was (is) being improperly restricted.  The land is accessed by a legal, written easement "for all road purposes associated with the ownership of the land".  Instead, the access road is gated and posted.  It should be a simple fix:   The land is in public hands and is dedicated to public use.  I have a copy of the easement; I have the deed requirements that outline how the land must be used. These include a provision specifically requiring uninterrupted river recreational access. I contacted the public agency in charge and made presentations.  It seemed like such a little thing, an easy no-brainer win for recreation.  But nothing is simple when dealing with Weyerhaeuser.

 It seems the mega-corporation--the largest landowner in the United States--will not allow anyone access on that 260 acres accept their paying clients.   All recreationists in the West know about how private land can block public land, giving exclusive access to private interests.  This is exactly what is happening here, with the recreational lease-holder of Weyerhaeuser's getting exclusive access to that 260 acres.  The public agency in charge of the land (with conflict of interest up to their eyeballs) doesn't want to ruffle the feathers of a powerful corporation that owns nearly half of Cowlitz County.  I've called and clawed and complained for two years now.   And what outrageous thing am I asking?  Change the "No Trespassing" signs on the gate to  "non-motorized access allowed", which is the way it was before Weyerhaeuser started their recreation fee program.  I haven't ask to open the road to vehicles, or to remove the gate, just modify the sign, and simply allow the public access to public land to walk, bicycle or horseback ride that easement route to public land.  But no.  Nope.  No way.  Big W wants to control not only their land, but everyone else's too.  The agency, after nearly two years of prodding, reluctantly asked the company about the issue, but was told in a fashion to "sit down and shut up", which they dutifully did.  And since only folks with power, influence, and cash dare to push Weyerhaeuser, nothing changes, even in the case of this egregious violation.

easement blocked
So what to do?  I'll keep chugging along, bringing the issue to more and more public officials.  Maybe someone, somewhere out there cares about the publics' rights, too.  If you know of such a person, please pass this on...




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