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Folks in the Darrington area are inviting visitors Saturday to celebrate an event 11 years in the making — the reopening of a road providing a key access to the Glacier Peak Wilderness.

An 11-mile section of the Suiattle River Road, closed by washouts in 2003 and again in 2006, will reopen at noon Saturday after a formal ribbon-cutting.

“It takes you to some of the most beautiful places in the world, and that are enjoyed year-round,” said Darrington Mayor Dan Rankin.

The road, northeast of Darrington, leads to a network of 120 miles of hiking trails in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, including the Pacific Crest Trail.

It also provides a scenic drive, and access to areas frequented by fishermen, hunters, berry-pickers, birdwatchers, mushroom-hunters and guided river-rafting.

Tribal members have traditionally used the route to reach areas and resources important to their culture.

“There’s a whole generation of people that have not experienced this area,” said Gary Paull, wilderness coordinator with the national forest. A 6-mile spur road that leads from the Suiattle River to the Green Mountain Trailhead also opens Saturday.

Paull said much of the public doesn’t realize the vast size of the area.

The national forest has 207,000 acres in the Suiattle River drainage — an area more than three-quarters of the size of Mount Rainier National Park.

U.S. Reps Suzan DelBene, D-Medina, and Rick Larsen, D-Everett, are expected to attend the ribbon-cutting, to be followed by a community celebration from noon to 4 p.m. at the Darrington Community Center.

The celebration will include a video showcasing the cultural and recreational importance of the route being reopened.

Allocations for the project included $2.74 million in federal highway funds and $1.1 million from the Forest Service.

The project received wide support from recreational groups but for a time had been opposed by two conservation organizations, which sued in 2011 to halt the repairs. Their lawsuit was withdrawn after the federal government agreed to address some environmental concerns.

The 566,000-acre Glacier Peak Wilderness Area surrounds its namesake 10,541-foot volcano. The wilderness area was designated by Congress in 1964 to protect the area from mining, logging and road building.

Material from Seattle Times archives is included in this report. Jack Broom: 206-464-2222 or