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Retired teacher steers efforts to expand Crown Zellerbach Trail

Joel Haugen hopes to expand recreational options for Crown Zellerbach Trail


Photo Credit: COURTNEY VAUGHN - A hiking group sets out to explore rugged terrain that could someday be improved to become part of Crown Zellerbach Trail. Left to right: Andy Haugen, Joel Haugen, Larry Lehman and Pete McHugh.After two descents down a steep, thickly wooded hill, Joel Haugen found the trail he’d been searching for. It’s the same trail he wants the rest of the world to be able to explore someday.

Haugen is pushing an effort to expand the county-owned Crown Zellerbach Trail to include a portion of former rail line and a connecting rail tunnel that could properly tie in to the Banks-Vernonia Trail.

If all goes as planned, Chapman Landing would be developed to become part of the expanded CZ Trail.

To accommodate hikers and cyclists, much of the trail would need to be paved and steep terrain would need to be graded to allow easier access.

Haugen, a former planner and middle school science teacher, is also an incoming Scappoose city councilor. He sees the recreational expansion as a potential tourism boon for the city and, indirectly, an economic driver.

“I think recreation begats growth,” he says. “I see a symbiotic relationship there.”

Haugen points to Intel’s presence in Hillsboro and suggests that with a strengthened, bona fide trails system in Scappoose, other high-tech companies might consider the area for future investments.

“If it’s done properly, you’ve got this marvelous circuit from Portland, all the way to Vernonia,” Haugen adds.

Photo Credit: COURTNEY VAUGHN - Pete McHugh and Andy Haugen wait at the entrance of an old railroad tunnel that has since become overgrown. Some Scappoose residents are behind efforts to rehab the tunnel and make it part of a historic rail trail.   Haugen set out with his son, Andy Haugen, friend and former colleague Pete McHugh and City Manager Larry Lehman to capture video of the journey from Chapman Landing to the nearly inaccessible rail tunnel. What starts as a leisurely stroll down a gravel path soon takes the hiking group across a lush hill, over muddy streams and fallen timber up to the chilly, dark cavern of the tunnel. The tunnel is currently filled with old lumber and pools of water, making it barely accessible.

Haugen plans to submit the video footage to Scappoose High School students and teachers in hopes that they’ll get behind the project and spearhead the effort to get the city’s trails system improved.

“The idea behind the video is just to give a starting point for the high school kids and teachers to kind of catalyze the effort,” Haugen explains. “We want them to actually design a plan, do the economics, the demographics and kind of just put together a comprehensive plan for this trail.”

He touted the ambitious endeavor as a “premier project for leadership kids.”

Beyond the academic community, the project will require the support of local government agencies, including Scappoose and Columbia County, which both own portions of the trail land.

“We would expect the Scappoose city planner, the new city engineer and the new city manager to help,” Haugen notes.

He’s reached out to a strategic planner at Intel, teachers and community leaders for support. It will take a community effort, funding and people with expertise in planning and engineering to make it happen. The time and money will be worth it, for the everlasting community legacy, Haugen suggests.

Haugen isn’t the only one who’s enthusiastic about the project’s promise.

“If this was developed, this would be a world class travel destination,” Lehman says.