Popular hiking trails near Index to close Sept. 25

INDEX — Popular hiking trails to Lake Serene and Bridal Veil Falls are set to close Sept. 25 as a safety precaution during a planned timber cut on private land. A nonprofit group, meanwhile, is working to raise money to buy some of the forest to preserve scenery and habitat.

The closure will come earlier than many hikers had hoped, but a few weeks later than the original date of Sept. 5. No weekend openings are planned before the trail re-opens, probably next spring or summer. Weyerhaeuser is seeking permission to log 57 acres of its own land.

“We’re not going to open it during the weekends,” said Tracy O’Toole, a U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman. “That’s for public safety during the timber harvest — and it would prolong the closure. We’ll revisit it in the spring and see where the timber harvest is.”

The Forest Service set the re-opening date for July 1. That could move up if logging, replanting and other activities finish ahead of schedule. The closure applies to the length of the trail, starting at the trailhead and includes the route to the falls. The Forest Service expects to use the down time for trailhead maintenance.

The trail to Lake Serene and Bridal Veil Falls, near Index, draws an estimated 45,000 visitors each year.

Seattle-based nonprofit Forterra hopes to buy about 200 acres from Weyerhaeuser to protect scenery and habitat. The group aims to attract $275,000 in donations by Oct. 30. That would cover a portion of the $800,000 purchase price not already funded through other means.

“Forterra is really dedicated to preserving the trail corridor (and) the creek corridor,” said Susannah Hale, the organization’s director of major gifts and special campaigns. “By purchasing the land it will allow permanent recreational access.”

Weyerhaeuser still would log the property this winter if the sale goes ahead, but would leave 500-foot forested buffers around the trail corridor and Bridal Veil Creek. Forterra would take ownership some time in 2018.

For more information, go to www.forterra.org/serene.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; nhaglund@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @NWhaglund.

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