After a two-year specially funded trial period to evaluate the economic impacts of a daily road schedule to Olympic National Park’s Hurricane Ridge in winter, park staff has announced a return to a Friday-Sunday schedule.
The three-day-per-week schedule will begin with the winter season in late November; the road currently is open according to its 24-7 spring-through-fall schedule.
“Despite the best efforts of our local community, Olympic National Park employees and National Park Service staff in Washington, D.C., weekday winter access to Hurricane Ridge did not lead to a sufficient increase in visitors,” said Todd Suess, Olympic National Park acting superintendent.
“Unfortunately, given the fiscal realities of today, we cannot justify the use of over $325,000 in community donations and taxpayer money to maintain weekday winter access to Hurricane Ridge Road for a relatively small number of people.”
At the urging of Port Angeles area community leaders, the Washington, D.C., office of the National Park Service provided a two-year $250,000 annual funding increase to the Olympic National Park budget, contingent on $75,000 in matching funds from the local community.
The community met this challenge each year through aggressive fundraising campaigns that netted several large contributions from the cities of Port Angeles and Sequim, Clallam County and many smaller donations from local organizations and individuals.
The temporary increase in funding provided a two-year trial period during which visitor and economic benefits of daily winter access to Hurricane Ridge would be measured and evaluated. Park staff established a visitation benchmark as its measure of success, aiming for the average number of winter weekday visitors to equal at least 45 percent of the five-year average of winter weekend visitors.
“Although we and our community partners joined forces to promote awareness and interest in weekday visits to Hurricane Ridge, we did not reach our 45 percent benchmark,” Suess said.
During the two-year trial period, weekday visitation averaged 19 percent of the five-year average for visits on weekend days.
Most of the park’s roads, including those leading to popular rain forest and coastal destinations, are located at lower elevations and remain open year-round.
Weather permitting, the Hurricane Ridge Road will be open 9 a.m. to dusk Friday-Sunday through the winter season, plus additional days during the winter holidays, including the week of Christmas through New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Washington’s Birthday.