Paragliding at Fort Flagler may soon be good to fly

Paragliding at Fort Flagler State Park is a step closer to being a reality.

Rainier Paragliding Club requested consideration of four sites within the park on Marrowstone Island near Port Townsend, and the outlook is hopeful.

The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission is midway through a land classification and maintenance planning process for 121 parks.

"We’ve essentially zoned the land within the state park," said commission spokesman John Krambrink.

Recreational zoning is given after consideration of soils, topography, sensitive plant and animal species, watershed and other resource issues. The types of recreation are then listed for each zone.

Paragliding has been conditionally approved for Fort Flagler; the specific request by the Rainier paragliders is being evaluated in terms of environmental, safety and cultural issues. Pilots must be licensed and follow regulations.

"I would hope we have a decision sometime this winter," Krambrink said.

Fort Ebey State Park on Whidbey Island is the only other state park in the region that allows paragliding. That site has consistently better flying conditions than Fort Flagler, but the latter would be closer to Olympic Peninsula hang-gliders.

Staircase closed: Forest Service Road 24 along the Lake Cushman shoreline to the Staircase area in Olympic National Park is closed for the winter. It’s the only access and is closed because of the danger of slides.

New fungus: Trees are one of Earth’s most valuable resources, but one more species is in trouble. Walnut trees in this state are being infected and dying from the Thousand Canker disease caused by the fungus Geosmithia, discovered in the Prosser area over the summer.

The fungus has been brought to the state by the walnut twig beetle, and can kill a walnut tree in less than three years. There is no cure.

Seeking advice: Three resource advisory committees need nominees to fill positions, according to Renee Bodine, spokeswoman for the Snoqualmie-Mount Baker National Forest.

The 15-member committees represent a wide array of public interests during review of proposed national forest management projects, making recommendations, and providing opportunities for others to participate in the process.

Applications are due Dec. 12. Snohomish County citizens can call Barbara Busse, 360-677-2414, for information and applications.

Hurricane Ridge Road: Unless closed by heavy snows or winter storms, the 17-mile road up to Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park will be open 9 a.m. to dusk Friday through Sunday through March 29. During the winter holiday, it will be open daily Dec. 19 through Jan. 4 except for Christmas Day, as well as holidays on Jan. 19 and Feb. 16. Road and weather condition information is available at 360-565-3131.

Tire chains: Beginning this weekend, all vehicles will be required to carry chains when traveling above the Heart O’ the Hills entrance station on Hurricane Ridge Road in Olympic National Park. The rule applies to four-wheel-drive vehicles. Entrance fees will be collected; $15 per vehicle for a seven-day pass.

Good news: Oregon Coast National Wildlife Refuge Complex and its partners have completed restoration of 82 acres of tidal marsh on Nestucca Bay NWR that had been lost to the effects of diking. Response by wildlife has been immediate, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, with an influx of fish, migratory waterfowl, wading birds, shorebirds and raptors.

On the bookshelf: Gary Ludd’s "Grand Canyon: Views Beyond the Beauty" ($15, Grand Canyon Association) is a sharp photograph-and-text look at the history, geology, size, color, age and carving of the canyon.

Readers are placed on the rim with the scenery in front of them, the major geographical points identified. This answers the often-asked question, "What’s down there?"

From Yavapai Point, for instance, see Plateau Point, Tonto Trail, Bright Angel Canyon and Phantom Ranch.

If the Grand Canyon is on your destination list, take this book with you.

Columnist Sharon Wootton can be reached at or 360-468-3964.

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