A $12,000 grant to install a parking lot on the West Fork of the Humptulips River will also end up restricting motorized access to the gravel bars in the river.
The grant application by the U.S. Forest Service sheds a bit more light on the project, noting that besides providing parking, the objective includes “halting vehicles from driving through water where steelhead and coho are found.”
The access is at the end of Forest Service Road 2203040 outside of Hoquiam.
“Vehicles have pioneered a road through a small stream draining a wetland and out onto a gravel bar of the West Fork Humptulips River,” the Forest Service says. “During summer low flows, vehicles drive on gravel bars adjacent to the river and cross the river in a number of locations. Within the small stream juvenile coho and steelhead have been observed for each of the last three years. This project will block motorized vehicles from driving through the stream and onto the gravel bar.”
Instead, the U.S. Forest Service will create a turnaround area and a gravel parking lot.
The grant application argued that the project “will rectify the issues created by driving over fish.”
“There is a bald eagle nest nearby making eagles a common site and sound during the summer,” the grant application states. “Additionally, murrelets, elk, and deer use the West Fork of the Humptulips through this area. Protecting and improving valuable habitat while providing recreational opportunities makes for a worthy project. The first phase of this project is to stop vehicles from driving over salmon and construct a suitable parking area.”
The project was funded using Title II Forest Service grant funds, allocated by Congress for use on community projects in the national forest. The funds were approved by the Olympic Peninsula Resource Advisory Committee in May.
On Monday, the Grays Harbor County commissioners were fielding phone and email complaints that their boat access to the river was being taken away through approval of this project.
“These complaints are really coming out of nowhere for me,” County Commissioner Herb Welch said.
Dan Boeholt, a Central Park resident, explained in an interview that dozens of people used the gravel bars to just off load their boats and now they will be forced to park and carry the boats 200 feet to get to the river. Some might even ignore the road blockage and try to drive around anyway, Boeholt noted.
“This is going to restrict the use of the gravel bars,” Boeholt said. “People spend their whole day there. They’d camp there and now they’ll be required to pack it all to the gravel bar — kids, lawn chairs, floaties, where before they could drive it all out and park. We’re losing these accesses to the river. It’s possible we’ll lose a lower access to the Humptulips next.”
Four years ago, Boeholt teamed with the Eyes in the Woods recreation group to try to keep the access open. Boeholt says garbage has been reduced and people take more care at the access point.
“The latest concern is about squishing fish,” Boeholt said. “But fishermen are going out there to fish. Why would they want to kill the fish with their cars? … I’m disappointed that this hasn’t worked out.”