Thursday, June 13, 2024

Design discussions restart on hatchery’s salmon life cycle trail

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LEAVENWORTH – With new momentum from recent grant funding, Cascade Fisheries, along with local and regional partners, is revisiting its decade-old designs for a Salmon Lifecycle Landscape Interpretive Trail Project at the Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery (LNFH).

“The trail will take visitors on an interactive journey to discover the life of salmon, the struggles they face, and their ecological and cultural importance throughout the Columbia River Basin. The story will be shared through many perspectives, including those of our Tribal partners who have a deep connection with salmon since time immemorial,” said Nicole Shepherd, Visitor Services Manager of Leavenworth Fisheries Complex.

The trail is intended to be interactive with the salmon’s physical environment, with its original design including features such as a hands-on streambed exploration area, high alpine lake, and a hydropower dam. The trail will also incorporate the indigenous history and cultural importance of salmon along the way. For example, the 2013 design included a pit house, salmon drying racks, and a fishing platform. 

“We literally want people to walk the path of a scaled down Columbia River Basin, so that they go through these different ecozones, and really get a sense of what the salmon goes through on their journey,” said Cascade Fisheries Executive Director Jason Lundgren.

In 2023, the organization received $107,000 from a Planning for Recreation Access (PRA) grant through the state’s Recreation and Conservation Office. With this funding, the organization plans to develop an updated final design and cost estimates by the end of the year.

While the concept will remain the same, the location at the hatchery, size, and design will differ from the original 2013 design. The location of the trail will be on roughly 4 acres of the northern portion of the LNFH grounds.

The organization began initial discussions regarding the updated design and execution earlier this spring, with members of the Yakama Nation, Colville Confederated Tribes, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Wenatchee River Institute. 

A larger discussion recently occurred with more partners, including, but not limited to, Trout Unlimited, Native Plant Society, Friends of Northwest Hatcheries and the Greater Leavenworth Museum. The project will utilize Seattle-based design center Environmental Works, also a nonprofit, for the landscape design.

Lundgren and his wife were inspired to create the trail over a decade ago while attending the Wenatchee River Salmon Festival. They saw a need to incorporate more education about salmon and the natural history and life cycle of the species outside of the hatchery. 

“When we would interact with these young people, I would occasionally ask, “Where does salmon come from?” And guess what they said? The hatchery,” said Lundgren. “If our youth thinks that salmon only come from hatcheries, they're missing a really big and important part of the story.”

With an estimated 100,000 visitors each year and easy access, the hatchery proved to be an ideal site for both locals and tourists of all ages and abilities to learn about the salmon’s life cycle in an interactive interpretive trail.

An original design was created over ten years ago but lost momentum due to various changes at the hatchery over the years and not finding the right funding fit. However, when Shepherd and Hatchery Manager Matt Maxey were hired at LNFH, they were excited about the project. When the PRA grant application opened, they encouraged Cascade Fisheries to apply.

“The trail will be free to access and accessible to all, making it an asset to the community, including school groups and teachers, Tribal members, families and tourists as a place to learn and connect with salmon and each other,” said Shepherd.

Once the design is “shovel ready,” Lundgren hopes to seek funding through grants and legislative appropriations. Lundgren hopes the project will be completed by 2027, but due to its early stages, an estimated time frame has not been established. Those interested in getting involved or learning more about the project can reach out to Jason@ccfeg.org.

Taylor Caldwell: 509-433-7276 or taylor@ward.media

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