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Trailhead kiosks nearly completed; group focused on sharing local history along the trail

COLUMBIA COUNTY MUSEUM ASSOCIATION - One of the improved trailheads on the Crown Zellerbach Trail is at Wilark, across from Camp 8, an encampment for timber workers. This photo from the 1920s shows the Clark Wilson Lumber Company.Work on the Crown Zellerbach Trail trailhead improvement project is ending this month.

Using grant funding, Columbia County made improvements to trailheads along 22 miles of trail. Planning has been ongoing for years, but the physical work didn't start until roughly six months ago, Columbia County Facilities Director Casey Garrett explained.

The county installed information kiosks at 11 locations between Scappoose and Vernonia, plus bike repair stations, crossing improvements, and more significant construction in the Chapman area.

Pacific Stainless Products, a metal-product manufacturer in St. Helens, donated 64 posts to the county, which can make 32 kiosks.

Now the Crown Zellerbach Trail advisory committee will focus its attention on creating a walking museum. The committee, county facilities staff, and Columbia County Museum Association Curator Les Watters, have been working on creating informational signs to share the history of locations along the trail.

Watters has gathered information about Chapman Landing, the Trtek family, Sunset Inn, Bonnie Falls, Spitzenberg, Ruley, Pisgah, and more.

The county is also working with private property owners to acquire easements, which would allow the county to connect the Crown Zellerbach Trail to the Banks-Vernonia Trail.

Garrett described the project as a "linear museum." The historical information creates a "linear interpretive recreational facility, somewhere not just to exercise but to come and learn," Garrett said.

"The average person might not guess there'd be that much information in that space," he said.

Watters has also been working on a website to accompany the trail information, with more stories and photographs than can fit on the signs.

Using the Pacific Stainless metal posts left over from the informational trailhead kiosks, cedar boards from Dahlgren's building supply, and photographs printed on metal sheets, the project has kept costs low.

"We developed pretty affordable design in this process," Garrett said.

Working with local vendors, county staff have designed project components like picnic tables to keep costs low and quality high.

"It's slowly becoming our standard" to stay local, Garrett said.

The historic information will be on signs up to 6 feet by 6 feet. The goal is to have most of the signage in place by May for a spring ribbon-cutting ceremony.

"I think we came a decent ways with it working with the committee and our museum people and adjacent landowners," Garrett said.

The group has also worked to capture the natural history with information about plants and wildlife.

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