This year could be a good one for outdoors lovers.
Skiers and snowboarders are finally getting a proper winter. The Foothills Trail is expected to get a step closer to completion. Tacoma’s first mountain bike park is on pace for a springtime expansion. And the National Park Service is turning 100 and promises to spruce itself up for the occasion.
Here’s a quick look ahead at what might be making news in the outdoors this year:
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Visiting Mount Rainier and Olympic national parks will get more expensive in 2016.
In May, the entry fee for a vehicle increases to $25, a $5 increase for the second consecutive year. The fee for motorcycles increase to $20, from $10. Camping fees are not scheduled to increase this year.
$25 Fee per vehicle to enter Mount Rainier and Olympic national parks starting in May. The current fee is $20.
When the National Park Service announced the increases in 2014, it said the additional revenue would help spruce up parks for the agency’s centennial. That celebration is almost here.
The Park Service turns 100 on Aug. 25. The two parks, and the other 14 Park Service units in Washington, will have centennial events throughout the year.
At Mount Rainier, the biggest events will be held during National Park Week in April and the days around the anniversary date, said park spokeswoman Patti Wold. The park hopes to finalize it centennial plans in January, she said.
The park is producing four new videos that will be released throughout the year. One is on the history of the park, and another highlights the different jobs in the park using children of park employees as actors.
Staffers are also putting together an exhibit that will give people the sensation of jumping across a glacial crevasse. The exhibit includes large photographs to create the crevasse scene. It will be taken to various events around the region, and will be a good photo opp, Wold said, because not many visitors are able to get high on the mountain where crevasses are found.
The Park Service will be releasing in January a new mobile version of its website that will include calendar of events of centennial events around the more than 400 park units in the system. The Find Your Park campaign that began earlier this year will also be part of the celebration, promoting different themes each month.
SKI AREA RECOVERY
On April 1, 2015, when snow depths are usually near their peak for the ski season, the base at Crystal Mountain had 6 inches of snow. White Pass had 2 inches.
Not that anybody needed numbers to know it was an epically bad winter. Worse yet, the dry winter followed a mediocre 2014 season.
To say Washington’s ski industry is in need of a proper winter is an understatement. Despite a preseason less-than-favorable forecast, ski areas are off to a good start. On Dec. 28, Crystal Mountain had 59 inches of snow at the base while White Pass had 71 inches.
More importantly for the ski areas, they are able to offer full operations unlike most of last season.
The Summit at Snoqualmie is also at full strength after opening for only 40 days last season. This, ski areas around the region say, is a big deal for everybody. As the most visited and most easily accessed ski area in the state, the Summit seems to serve as a giant flashing billboard signaling that all of the Cascade resorts are open.
SWAN CREEK EXPANSION
Tacoma’s first mountain bike trail system opened in the spring of 2014. Even before it opened, there was talk about expansion of the 1.5 miles of trail.
The wait is almost over. Crews from the Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance are working on about 2 miles of new trails at Swan Creek Park, on the east edge of Tacoma. Metro Parks Tacoma spokesman Hunter George says the new trails are expected to be done this spring. Although Evergreen and its army of volunteers is expected to return in the fall to do final touch-ups.
The parks department plans to have an early summer celebration for the new trails.
FOOTHILLS PHASE 1
The much-anticipated plans to extend the Foothills Trail from South Prairie to Buckley is three steps away from completion, said Tony Tipton, director of Pierce County Parks and Recreation.
Two of those steps could be completed this year.
A 1-mile section of trail is already complete, but sits as an island waiting to be connected to completed sections of trail in the two towns.
$6 million Cost to extend Foothills Trail from South Prairie to Buckley
In 2016, the county aims to complete the section toward Buckley. The section toward South Prairie is scheduled for 2017.
The third step calls for replacing a bridge that was destroyed in a wind storm in 2014. Tipton says the county hopes to replace the bridge this year.
The two years of work is expected to cost $6 million. When complete, trail users will be able to travel on a paved path from Puyallup to the White River in Buckley.
Jeffrey P. Mayor: 253-597-8640