If you’ve ever dreamed of covering the entire Oregon Coast on foot, or simply like a good coastal day hike, Trail Keepers of Oregon is helping improve the experience on the Oregon Coast Trail. Currently, 164 miles of the 425-mile trek follow roadways, mostly along the shoulder of Highway 101.
“Though we do work throughout the state we’re excited about our coastal trail projects,” said Trail Keepers Executive Director Steve Kruger. “Having as many ways as possible for people to hike the entire coast without having to walk along the highway is a great goal.”
The current projects include a brand-new section near Manzanita and the revival of a discontinued, roughly three-mile section of trail near Cascade Head, now dubbed the Cascade Head Rainforest Trail to differentiate it from the Nature Conservancy trail.
The work being done will extend a 3.5-mile trail that starts (or ends) at the junction of Three Rocks Road and Highway 101, roughly running parallel to the highway until reaching Forest Road 1867. It will soon continue all the way over the other side of Cascade Head.
“In 2007 and 2008 there were big winter storms that caused a lot of havoc on the coast range,” Kruger said. “A lot of huge trees came down on that trail section, and it effectively closed it. It’s within the Hebo District of the US Forest Service, so Forest Service staff took care of the largest trees and more technical work so that our volunteers would not be put in danger.”
Volunteers are a big part of the Trail Keepers labor force, and they could not exist without them.
“We supply gear and all tools needed for the work so people just need to show up in sturdy shoes and clothes they don’t care that much about,” Kruger said. “We do ask that people register though so we bring enough tools.”
To see the dates of the work parties and register to attend, go to trailkeepersoforegon.org.
“Our volunteers are mixed pretty equally between the sexes,” said Susan Schen, Trail Keepers coast stewardship manager. “In age it usually ranges between mid 20s to over 70.”
Many travel to get there; roughly 75 percent of the volunteers at the coastal work parties have been coming from out of the area.
“We have people that come to the coast for a trail party and make a weekend out of it,” Kruger said. “They are enjoying the coast but doing trail work while they are there.”
As appreciated as their work is, the members of Trail Keepers would love to see more involvement from locals.
Kate and Andy Grimm live in Manzanita and have been volunteer trail builders with Trail Keepers for long enough that Andy has a personalized hard hat.
“After you’ve been to five trail parties you get your own hard hat with your name on it,” Schen said. “People get very excited when they get it.”
Making the environment fun is high on the priority list:
“We think safety first, then having fun and then getting work done,” Schen said “We’re really about education and the quality of the work rather than trying to finish in a certain amount of time.”
But making the environment fun and providing tools is only possible with sponsorship; this project owes quite a bit to the Oregon Coast Visitors Association.
“I’m an outdoor recreationalist,” said OCVA Executive Director Marcus Hinz. “But more importantly visitors to the coast have expressed a tremendous interest in hiking opportunities. We very much want to accommodate their desire to experience the Oregon coast this way.”
Long distance hiker and surprise author Connie Soper tackled the entire trail, and it led to a new project.
“When I did it, I didn’t know that I was going to write a book about it,” she said. “Then I got interested in the history of it and hiked it again so that I could do it more carefully. The book includes a lot of the history that I’ve learned.”
Copies of “Hiking the Oregon Coast Trail’” which has a new edition coming out this summer, can be found at most coastal bookstores or ordered at www.dragonfly-press-pdx.com.
Soper is also the president of the newly formed Oregon Coast Trail Foundation, which has recently remapped the entire trail and is working to establish systems for long-term care and maintenance of the trail sections.
Trail parties happen most Fridays and Saturdays until the end of July, and as weather permits through August.
“The two new coast trails should be open next year, Shen said. “We just want to let them over-winter and settle, then take care of any repairs before we open them formally.”