The coast is a place for hikers. Bikers speed down the hills while birders amble through forested stands on the lookout. Coastal residents just love the outdoors. Northwest Coast Trails Coalition (NCTC) understands. They know everyone has a favorite trail and are searching for the next great one. They want to help you find it on the map. They may have helped build it. Or they might be working to right now.
According to Steven Blakesley and Tessa Scheller, NCTC board members, the coalition began when groups in the area came together. It all started when a community group was working to create a one-page resource guide for low-income residents. It would include recommendations for services, housing and recreation. Knowing of the wealth of trails zig-zagging the community, the team wanted to incorporate them on the guide. So, they searched for a list or a map to direct people. It turned out, there wasn’t one resource, there were many. Nearby, there were nine different land managers, including city, state and federal governments. Each different park or area had their own guide, but nobody covered it all. The group wanted to change that.
“Geography dictates your hiking destination,” Steven says. “Not county or other boundary lines.” So, National Parks Service, Oregon State Parks, Washington State Parks, Clatsop County and Warrenton Trails Association came together to create one map. The team worked with a cartographer, Adventure Maps, to create an inclusive, waterproof, tearproof map for sale. The map features a large comprehensive show of the Lower Columbia River region and seven insets of parks and trail heavy areas, like Fort Columbia State Park. These insets are perfect to bring along on a hike, for welcome centers to give away or for users to print at home. Which is exactly what you can do. All insets are free on the Northwest Coast Trails website. The sales of the large-scale map are used to fund the organization and to pay for iterations of the map. Once this great resource was created, the Warrenton Trails Association was reconfigured under a new title as we know it, the Northwest Coast Trails Coalition (NCTC).
The NCTC’s mission includes the goal of building a well-connected and accessible system of trails for our community. After completing their first endeavor of mapping current trails, the NCTC partnered with Clatsop Community College (CCC) to ensure campus routes were usable and safe. The team tackled an urban trail that snakes through campus and brings hikers on an accessible route to the Astoria Column. Experts from Oregon State Parks and National Parks partnered with CCC, NCTC and Big River Excavating to ensure the trail was safe and manageable. The trail connects 17th street to one of the most attended tourist attractions in the city and in-turn allows hikers to access the Cathedral Tree Trail and the myriad of offshoots connected to this main line. “Students are using it, the neighborhood is using it, the city is using it,” Tessa states. The NCTC is proud to be partnering with the community in any way possible in moving towards their mission.
The next project on the docket is a trail that runs the county. “From the north end to the south end,” Steven says. The trail would be a way to get people moving and get them out of their cars, he adds. “It’s not just pie in the sky,” Tessa explains, there is the beginning of a trail coming from the outskirts of Portland along the Salmonberry River. “When it gets here, we will be ready,” she smiles.
The NCTC is forging toward new trails and supporting established routes in Clatsop. From the Fort to Sea trail to the Airport Dike Trail, NCTC board members love to hike and know how important these places are to us. Pride of place, they say, is their reward for their hard work. “People take a sense of ownership of trails. Everyone has a pair of shoes and can take advantage,” Steven says. Trails are a gathering place and hugely beneficial to the community, the team explains. “They are good for housing, good for business, its how the coast is advertised,” Tessa adds. The team has run into their fair share of obstacles between uncooperative land managers and lack of funding, but they keep working. “Seeing people engaged in healthy activities in nature is what is important,” Steven explains. “Family time, birding, anything.” So however you want to enjoy the trails, wherever you live or play, remember the stewards of the land that help make it possible.
If you want to help the NCTC blaze ahead visit their website and download a map. Or spread the word about their work, donate or join the board. And always, enjoy the trails. Take advantage of the beauty in your backyard!