Private grants of more than $2 million will establish new trail teams in Mount Rainier and Olympic national parks.
Beloved trails in Mount Rainier and Olympic national parks get their own privately backed maintenance teams thanks to a grant announced Wednesday benefiting the Wonderland Trail and Enchanted Valley trails.
Seattle-based philanthropists Mike and Sue Raney donated $2 million for the effort, to be supplemented by part of a $1 million grant from the REI Foundation, the charitable arm of Seattle-based Recreational Equipment Inc. The REI grant, announced in April, will go to the two Washington parks and 17 other national parks.
Both donations are being channeled through the $350 million Centennial Campaign for America’s National Parks, a project of the Washington, D.C.-based National Park Foundation, a nonprofit partner of the National Park Service. The park service turns 100 this year.
At a ceremony Wednesday at Mount Rainier National Park, officials announced that the money has established a Wonderland Trail Conservation Corps and Olympic Conservation Corps. Both are under the aegis of the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps program.
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That national effort, taking a page from the Civilian Conservation Corps program of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, aims to put thousands of youth and recent veterans to work restoring and enhancing America’s cultural and natural resources.
The 101-year-old, 93-mile Wonderland Trail circling Mount Rainier attracts hikers from around the world and is subject to heavy use and punishing mountain weather.
“Engaging diverse youth in the care and restoration of this magnificent trail will teach work skills, create new park stewards, benefit the tens of thousands of hikers who enjoy the trail each year, and serve to highlight the great good that can be achieved for our national parks and public lands through philanthropy,” Mount Rainier National Park Superintendent Randy King said in a written statement.
The Raneys say they share a passion for national parks. Mike Raney was a founder of Seattle-based Rainier Investment Management, which manages more than $45 billion in assets. Sue Raney is retired from a banking career.
Their grant helps launch a 10-year restoration effort on the Wonderland Trail. The Wonderland Trail Conservation Corps adds two crews of six young adults to work with crews this summer on the trail along Stevens Creek and between White River and Summerland. Work will include repairing storm damage, removing trees, rocks and brush, and other efforts addressing more than $3 million in deferred Wonderland Trail maintenance, officials say.
Overall, the park has a maintenance backlog of nearly $300 million.
In Olympic National Park, a new crew of six is working on the East Fork Quinault trail that leads 13 miles through old-growth rain forest to the Enchanted Valley, one of the park’s most popular wilderness destinations, set among towering peaks.