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Great American Outdoors Act = $27.4 million for recreation and access improvements

$27.4 million in funding provided through the Great American Outdoors Act is greatly improved the U.S. Forest Service’s ability to address deferred maintenance needs at recreation facilities across the Northwest, according to Jacque Buchanan, Pacific Northwest Regional Forester.

“We’ve made incredible progress in updating recreation sites, trails, and access with the help of these funds. Each investment reduces the amount of costly maintenance needed to protect public safety and natural resources, and improves the experience for visitors,” she said.

In Oregon and Washington, previous investments have included important repairs to historic buildings, including repairs at the historic Santiam Pass Ski Lodge on the Willamette National Forest, Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood National Forest, Lava River Cave entrance improvements for safety and accessibility, and parking area repairs at Lava Lands Visitor Center. Other projects have included a parking lot expansion project at the Denny Creek and Franklin Falls trailheads on the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. Numerous restroom facilities across the region have also been upgraded, and more than 40 bridges are being repaired or replaced.

New projects for fiscal year 2024 include critical safety improvements at the Johnston Ridge Observatory on the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, Selkirk Loop Trail restoration and recreation amenity improvements in northeast Washington, and accessibility, utility, and security upgrades to historic Multnomah Falls Lodge at the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.

Across the region, funding has also been approved to improve more than 1,500 miles of trails and update campgrounds, trailheads, and day-use areas.

“Our goal is to enable experiences for everyone, from the first-time visitor to the experienced outdoors person. Some of this work will modernize facilities to improve accessibility for all. Other projects will improve visitor safety, better protect natural resources, and help preserve and restore historic buildings,” said Sally Butts, director for Recreation, Lands, and Minerals for the Pacific Northwest Region.

While investments in roads, bridges, and culverts aren’t always noticed, they’re important to providing visitor experiences and critical to protecting the surrounding natural resources, said Christy Darden, Director of Engineering for the Pacific Northwest Region.

“Nature is hard on our infrastructure and when maintenance or repairs are delayed, the damage escalates. In the worst-case scenario, nearby water sources and habitats are damaged. These investments provide a much-needed boost that’s helping us address deferred maintenance and keep sites and roads open, accessible, and safe,” she said.

Government agencies, Tribes, and other individuals and community organizations are routinely involved in project development and planning, or the public participation process for large projects. Some of these organizations are also able to provide volunteers, and technical expertise, or coordinate work on projects under agreements with the Forest Service.

Much of the funding is used for agreements, or to fund contracts with industry partners with the skills and experience to perform the necessary work.

Officials say the Great American Outdoors Act addresses the growing $8.6 billion backlog of deferred maintenance on national forests and grasslands. The Forest Service currently administers more than 370,000 miles of roads, 13,900 trail and road bridges, 160,000 miles of trails, 1,500 dams and reservoirs, 1,500 communications sites, and 30,000 recreation sites across the United States and Puerto Rico.

 

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