4 reasons why we should restore access to Glacier Peak Wilderness

The easiest access to iconic Image Lake is currently blocked by washed out Suiattle River Road.

innocentspy, courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

We are not quite to the finish line with the restoration of the primary western gateway to the North Cascade’s Glacier Peak Wilderness -- Suiattle Road (Forest Road 26).

Multiple flood events have made the Suiattle River road impassable, extremely limiting opportunities to explore some of the best hikes, lakes and peaks of Glacier Peak Wilderness, such as iconic Image Lake and the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail. 

The Federal Highway Administration and the Forest Service have released a slightly amended Environmental Assessment that closes small loopholes but still presents the same three alternatives presented in the March 2012 Environmental Assessment:
  • Alternative A: No Action. Would result in no repairs to any of the eight flood-damaged sites along Road 26.
  • Alternative B: Full Road Restoration. Repair Road 26 at all eight sites, with relocations away from the river and rehabilitation of abandoned sections of the 23-mile road.
  • Alternative C: Limited Road Restoration. Repair Road 26 at five sites, with 20 miles of road open to vehicle access (to the junction of Green Mountain Road), but not beyond. 
Here are a few reasons why The Wilderness Society strongly supports Alternative B, restoring the road in its entirety, and encourages others to do the same (even if you have already submitted comments – please do it again!):
  1. It will reopen important recreational resources that provide opportunities for all ages, interests, and ability levels to explore the wildlands and waters of the Suiattle, Glacier Peak Wilderness and beyond. More than 120 miles of trail is accessible via the seven trailheads along the road; 113 miles (93 percent) of these trails are within the Glacier Peak Wilderness area.
  2. There is broad public support for reopening the road. 86 percent of the 406 comments received on the March 2012 Environmental Assessment support Alternative B.
  3. Reopening the road would allow the Forest Service to properly manage and maintain facilities along the road and in the wilderness. Motorized access along the entire road is critical to providing adequate public safety, regulatory compliance, and maintenance of National Forest recreational sites and facilities.
  4. Reopening the road would increase visitors to the area, thereby increasing economic activity in the greater Darrington area. Road closures have resulted in fewer visitors to Darrington area businesses.
The Wilderness Society views the full restoration as imperative; anything less will favor the wishes of a few over the desire of many. Restoration of the road will reopen access to seven trailheads, two campgrounds, and large parking areas for hikers, bikers, river users, equestrians and others. We firmly believes to create future stewards of our public resources we must provide the opportunity for people to experience the wild places that will inspire them to care—the Suiattle offers such an opportunity.
It is important for the public to continue to show support for the restoration of the road. Even if you have already submitted comments, do so again to drive home your support.
The comment deadline is September 10, 2012, so take action today.