News for those who live, work and play in the Santiam Canyon

State panel backs Little North Santiam grant

A grant proposal that will aid in the restoration of a popular Santiam Canyon trail has been approved by a state commission.

Little North Santiam Trail will receive approximately $100,000 for trail work as a result of a vote April 24 by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Commissioner. The vote backed an earlier approval by a recreational trails committee that approved $1 .8 million in grants at a two-day meeting in March.

The trail, which provides access to some of the most popular attractions in the Opal Creek region, including the three pools area, has been closed since the 2020 Labor Day weekend wildfires. 

Little North Santiam Trail runs along the south side of Little North Santiam River, with its west trailhead off Elkhorn Road SE and its east trailhead off Forest Road 2207 near Shady Cove. Hikers can choose various lengths of trail to cover or shuttle between the two trailheads, which are roughly 4.5 miles apart.

Reopening the trail will be a big boon to those who like to hike and recreate in the Santiam Canyon, given that many Marion County parks, Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service recreation spots in the region remain closed.  

The Little North Santiam project is a joint effort involving the National Forests Foundation and the U.S. Forest Service. The foundation will tackle the downed bridges and other infrastructure damage from the fires, while Willamette National Forest trail contractors will do the tread work.

Although some steps remain before the project receives “notice to proceed,” Jodi Bellefeuille,  OPRD trails program coordinator, told The Canyon Weekly that “I anticipate we will issue (the notice) for the Little North Santiam project around May/June 2024.”

Steps must be taken to get to the notice to proceed. First, the project must be added to the Oregon Department of Transportation’s statewide transportation improvement program (STIP) list. The Willamette National Forest already has completed the required environmental and cultural resource review, so Bellefeuille will then move on to seeking the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) formal approval. 

“For Little North Santiam, I can seek FHWA approval immediately after the STIP is updated,” she said. 

Once she has FHWA project approval, she will request formal funding authorization and enter into a grant agreement with the National Forest Foundation. 

“Once the agreement is signed and funds are authorized, I will issue ‘notice to proceed’ for the project,” she said.

National Forests Foundation and Willamette National Forest officials said during the grant review meeting in Salem that the restoration work likely will be a one- to two-season project.

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