Congress Introduces Bill To Protect Washington's 150-Mile Water Recreation Trail

Serene. Soothing. Magnificent. These are all words appropriate to describe the Cascadia Marine Trail, a 150 mile entirely water-based recreation trail along the coast in the Pacific northwest. Beginning in Olympia, Washington and winding through the San Juan Islands all the way to the Canadian border, the Cascadia Marine Trail was started over 20 years ago by the Washington Water Trails Association, in partnership with state and local authorities. The trail is a network of 55 shoreline campsites for travelers to enjoy.

Representative Jay Inslee (D-WA) introduced a bill in Congress in 2009, called the Cascadia Marine Trail Study Bill, to designate the Cascadia Marine Trail as a national scenic trail. In Washington, 83% of the shoreline property is privately owned, and this designation would not only protect the fragile ecology of this area, but would also protect public access to the Cascadia Marine Trail. This is the first bill to be introduced in Congress that would provide a designation for a fully waterborne trail.

Supporters of the bill would like to see campsites added for non-motorized boaters every five to ten miles along the trail. “If you’re not kayaking a lot, you don’t really realize how few spots there are that you can camp, and that you can go with a kayak,” says Connor Inslee of the Outdoors for All Foundation.

The Cascadia Marine Trail currently relies on the generosity of donors and the efforts of volunteers for support and maintenance, but the economic downturn has resulted in fewer donations, which means losing campsites. The success of the current bill would provide support from federal funding as well as management of the trail and campsites by federal authorities from the National Parks Service or the Bureau of Land Management.

Congressman Inslee says Americans should support this bill regardless of where they live. “It’s just like asking why you would care about Yellowstone or Yosemite,” he says, “Just because you’re not living [near] there, it doesn’t mean it’s not a huge part of everybody’s lives.” Supporters say the designation is about more than funding. They want to ensure that future generations can enjoy this as much as those who travel these waters today.

The House of Representatives approved the Cascadia Marine Trail Study Bill, but a Senate vote never occurred, so it was not passed. As is customary, this bill was cleared from the books at the end of the session, but will be re-introduced in the current session.

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