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The trail, offering a glimpse of the history of the area, is open to bikers, hikers and horses.

COURTESY PHOTO: COLUMBIA ECONOMIC TEAM - Crown Zellerbach Trail is a great exercise option for hikers, bikers and horses. A 25-mile trail stretches from Chapman Landing at the Multnomah Channel, on the outer edge of Scappoose, to about a quarter of a mile from the Banks-Vernonia State Trail.

The Crown Zellerbach Trail follows a former logging railroad and is open to bikers, hikers and horses. It's well-known to locals, but for new residents or those visiting from a little further away, it may be an undiscovered gem.

Columbia County Commissioner Casey Garrett has been a longtime supporter of the scenic trail. A former county parks director, Garrett has been involved with ongoing improvements at the popular getaway.

The trail has benefited from hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants over the last five years, Garrett said. It also has an advisory committee that has helped shape its development.

The trail has seen improvements such as signage, mapping, kiosks and historical interpretive signs dotting the trail.

"I have gotten to work with a pretty consistent group of folks who are passionate about the trail, over the last five years, to make a lot of improvements you see now," Garrett said. "We're still working on quite a few, actually."

Garrett said he's awaiting word on a particular grant — news that may come shortly.

"We have a grant application out, and we should know sometime in the next month, if we are awarded for the Holce Trailhead that is at the end of Knott Street in Vernonia," Garrett said. "It includes a big, new parking area, a picnic shelter, benches, a restroom and about a third of a mile of pavement."

The project cost is expected to be about $200,000.

"Randy Holce still lives in Vernonia, and he has been really an amazing person for the city of Vernonia," Garrett said. "He donated most of the money for the recently completed Vernonia Skate Park."

Holce has helped with an easement to allow access through a part of his property to the end of Knott Street.

"We were able to extend the trail this last couple of years with that easement and put a temporary gravel parking spot at the end of Knott Street," Garrett said.

Garrett isn't the only local elected official with a deep fondness for what is often called the "Crown Z."

When he's not voting on ordinances and resolutions, you might find St. Helens City Councilor Patrick Birkle walking the trail.

"In terms of the peacefulness, there are some really nice sections where you have beautiful trees that are characteristic of the area," Birkle said, noting there are several bridges and spots where you can listen to the water trickle.

Birkle continued, "There are nice fall colors. Fall is nice. It's not 'New England spectacular,' but it is nice to see some of the local maples changing colors."

Wela Negelspach, administrative and program manager for Columbia Economic Team, is also a trail enjoyer.

"Cross country teams (both high school and college) use it for training practices," she said of the Crown Z Trail. "I know people that have been out there walking and running, and they see the university track teams going by."

Negelspach added, "There are portions where it's nice and flat. There are definitely portions where there are some steeper elevations. … Not everyone can handle doing the trail, in the whole, in one day. I know there are some hardcore bikers that do come out and do that."

Whatever stretch of the trail you choose, you'll enjoy the nature and tranquility.

"It's outdoor recreation in a beautiful setting," Negelspach said.

Hiking or biking the Crown Z Trail is not only great exercise, but it's a chance to learn about area history.

"There is a surprising amount of local history and natural surroundings throughout each one of those spots (on the trail)," Garrett said, noting you can see native plants and native species all the way along a walk or ride along the trail.

For more information on the Crown Zellerbach Trail, you can visit crownztrail.com.


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