Railroad Park trestle replaced with salmon- and trail-friendly span

After a major storm damaged a popular walkway over the Dungeness River in early 2015, the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe saw a chance to restore salmon habitat, remove creosote pilings from the river and build a better trail.

The river is heavily used by chinook, coho, chum and pink salmon, steelhead and cutthroat trout, while the Olympic Discovery Trail that crosses over it is used by more than 100,000 people a year. The site is part of the tribe’s Dungeness Audubon Railroad Bridge Park.

“This section of river is a pinch point and has long been a part of the Dungeness River Railroad Reach flood project restoration plan,” said Randy Johnson, the tribe’s habitat program manager.

The old 570-foot-long wooden walkway was supported by 185 creosote pilings, impeding the river’s ability to flow into the floodplain.

“In addition to being (infused with) creosote, the pilings were a nightmare because they were so close together, they were trapping debris coming downriver and preventing the river from moving back and forth like it needed to,” Johnson said.

The new steel walkway, 750 feet long, has just four cement piers, allowing the dynamic river to move as its flows vary throughout the year.

The structure was put to test in November when river flow peaked at 5,000 cubic feet per second. The river was able to expand properly within the floodplain like it should, Johnson said.

Following the initial damage early 2015, the tribe could have done a quick fix, Johnson said. But Johnson and his colleagues realized this was the right time to address the environmental problem – the creosote pilings – by removing the old walkway altogether, fixing the floodplain issue at the same time and improving the trail user experience.

The tribe was able to quickly secure funding from various sources, including the state’s Salmon Recovery Funding Board, Puget Sound Partnership’s Acquisition and Restoration Fund, Bureau of Indian Affairs, state Floodplains by Design grant and Peninsula Trails Coalition.

The removal of the old structure started in August and the trail was opened to the public by late December.

“It benefits so many,” Johnson said. “Trail users have a safer pathway and salmon have much healthier habitat to move through.”

A set of photos of the new walkway installation can be viewed here and the opening ceremony in December can be viewed here.