7-Day Access to Hurricane Ridge Back For the Winter

OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK — All-week winter access to Hurricane Ridge will kick off after Thanksgiving, and the road will be open seven days a week, weather permitting.

For many years, Olympic National Park would switch over to a weekend-only schedule for the popular destination after the Thanksgiving holiday.

But the road will be kept open daily, except when winter storms prompt its closure, for the second year in a row as part of a mostly federally funded pilot project.

Deputy Park Superintendent Todd Suess said the park is ready to go and has hired all the snow plow workers it needs.

“We have had this in the works since mid-August,” he said.

A ribbon cutting will likely be held Nov. 25, Suess said.

Pilot project

The U.S. Department of the Interior, in response to a community-driven lobbying effort, is putting up $250,000 to pay for the additional access during a pilot project. About $75,000 in community donations was raised.

Interior provided the same amount last year, under the assumption that the funds would be provided for two to three years.
If the effort succeeds in bringing more visitors to the Ridge, Interior would begin to fund the entire cost after the pilot project ends.

It’s expected this will be the last year of the pilot project because it may be difficult to raise another $75,000 next year, Suess said.

Attendance increased by 12 percent last year when compared with a five-year average.

Tourism promoters, such as the Olympic Tourism Commission, are working to help make a bigger success this year by putting
up another $3,000 for promoting the all-week access.

Willie Nelson of All Points Charters and Tours also is throwing his weight, or his business, for that matter, behind the effort.

Shuttle service

As he did last year, Nelson is going to provide a shuttle service to the Ridge from Port Angeles beginning Nov. 25, But this year,
he won’t have the benefit of a subsidy from extra community donations. That means he’ll be charging $20 rather than $10 for a ride.

It also means he’s taking a bigger risk this year.

“I have no idea if it’s going to work or not,” Nelson said.

Nelson said he may get lucky and make a few bucks, but either way, he wants to help make daily access to the Ridge during the winter something permanent.

“We’re trying to make this work,” he said. “We have to have everything possible in place.”

Nelson’s shuttle will operate Wednesdays through Sundays, leaving from the Port Angeles Visitors’ Center on Railroad Avenue at 9 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. and from the Vern Burton Community Center, 308 E. Fourth St., at 9:05 a.m. and 12:35 p.m.