Grant awarded for development of trailhead at Oroville for Similkameen Conn

OROVILLE – Okanogan County has received a federal grant $106,000 grant for the development of the trailhead at Oroville for the Similkameen Connector Trail.

The grant will help pay for features at the trailhead, which is located at the end of Kernan Road and is the start of the scenic trail. The trail follows the old Great Northern Railroad bed from Oroville heading northwest and across the steel and concrete railroad bridge across the Similkameen River and onward to just shy of the old Enloe Dam Powerhouse, according to Ted Murray, with the Okanogan County Planning Department.

“The features at the trailhead include parking, restrooms, shelters, kiosks, picnic tables and benches,” said Murray. “Part of the grant involves getting the youth from the Oroville High School involved.”

The grant is from the Federal Highway Administration under the National Scenic Byways Program for fiscal year 2009. It is one of 160 projects in 43 states that were selected to receive funding.

“We are getting our seniors involved over the long term and are forming a list of tasks, chores and activities for senior projects,” said George Thornton, a social studies teacher at Oroville High School.

Thornton, who is also advisor to senior students doing their community service hours, a requirement for graduation, adds, “We are focusing our efforts on the community and the trailhead will be part of our long term commitment which includes things like Streetscape, the library and other efforts around the community.”

The plan is to also use students in the wood and metal shop to help to create shelters, tables, benches, display boards, historical panels and to do landscaping projects at the trailhead, according to Thornton.

Meanwhile, Murray says work progresses on the trail, which will be ADA compliant. So far the work has been focused on the trail itself as it winds around the Copper Mountain Vineyard near the train bridge. Murray said the concrete decking work is supposed to begin on the bridge this week, making a stable surface for hikers, bikers, horseback riders and others to use the trail where motorized types of transportation are prohibited.

“Some of the panels for the deck are supposed to be down this week,” said Murray, who adds that chain link type fencing will be installed the length of the bridge on both sides.

“It will be over four feet high and beefier, utilizing rails to match those already on the one side of the bridge. There will be a third rail and the chain link will be black so it will disappear when viewed from a distance,” he said.

In the future an overlook is planned near the vineyard to observe salmon and steelhead making their way up river. There has also been some talk of putting in another suspension bridge downriver from Enloe Dam to form a loop trail, according to Thornton, who is also a member of the Oroville Chapter of the Pacific Northwest Trail Association.

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