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The Ferry County Rail Trail Partners (FCRTP) won ‘unofficial’ recognition by the national Rails to Trails Conservancy for Best Trail Organization this fall. Powered by volunteers and led by Bob Whittaker, FCRTP works to preserve and improve nearly 25 miles of converted railroad right-of-way in the northeastern county, running from the trailhead close to Republic, Washington, to the Canadian border at Danville. The group improved many sections of the former rail corridor, and have plans for segments that run along beautiful Curlew Lake and connect two school complexes.
“This trail is one of the few safe places for walking and biking in Ferry County,” says Bob Whittaker. “We are very much a working rural community with mining and logging. That means we have big trucks on our highways. To have this new asset will help diversify the county economy with some tourist dollars, and help raise awareness of the cultural resources along the trail. Best of all, you start to create more of an awareness that you can send your child safely to school on a bicycle.”
Once connected to a sawmill in Republic, the old Burlington Northern branch line fell out of use in recent years. Whittaker and other trail advocates cruised in with state partners at the right moment to preserve the right of way, just as the railroad company officially “abandoned” the spur and began salvaging the track. Advocates secured the $2 million dollar value right of way for Ferry County, the lead partner for the project. Preserving the right of way protects the corridor in the event that federal and state authorities deem that the rail spur needs to be reactivated.
Currently, Ferry County maintains the trail as a public park. As a non-profit, the FCRTP can raise funds for improvements and match corporate and state dollars. The group is working with the Confederated Tribes of Colville to plan interpretive signs along the trail. They plan to build a deck on the 770 foot train trestle, currently off limits for trail users. Eventually, they will add material to the rocky ballast comprising most of the trail and pave sections likely to get the most use, such as the area near the fairgrounds and around Curlew Lake.
According to Whittaker, “It is so exciting to feel like you are making a difference. This is a pivotal time for Ferry County, and this trail is a win, win, win for both tourism and physical activity.”
Featured: December 2012
Residents of Ferry County and tourists