After many years of anticipation, residents and visitors of Ocean Shores can finally traverse the crest of the sand dunes by both wheel and foot.
That’s thanks to a new $1.2 million asphalt and boardwalk path, called the High Dune Trail, which spans three-quarters of a mile from the Chance A La Mer beach access to Damon Road, rolling through environs of grasses, shrubs, sand and trees while affording frequent ocean views.
The city of Ocean Shores held a ceremony on Saturday, Oct. 28 to celebrate the new opportunity for cross-dune travel and the years of work it took to create it.
“We have been talking about the High Dune Trail probably since I moved to Ocean Shores about 15 years ago,” Ocean Shores Mayor Jon Martin said as he stood near the entrance of the trail at the Chance A La Mer entrance. “It’s finally happening.”
The trail has been open to walkers for a few weeks, although several items still need to be wrapped up before the first phase of the project is fully finished, Ocean Shores project manager Becky Leach said Saturday. Cement berms block trail access at Damon Road, where crews still need to install a culvert to prevent erosion from rain runoff and, ideally by the spring, complete a ramp leading to the road. The city also plans to install interpretive signs along the side of the trail.
Construction on the trail began in June and lasted about four months. Black asphalt makes up a vast majority of the ADA-accessible trail, while 335 feet of amber boardwalk carries dune-goers over areas of sensitive wetlands. A handful of benches along the 10-foot-wide surface provide a place to rest and views of the ocean in the distance.
“It’s beautiful,” Leach said. “I’m excited for everyone to see it.”
The trail has minimal grade and is mostly easygoing, opposite in nature to the path prior to finalizing the project — a steep climb that contained many hurdles.
The High Dune Trail was a passion project of late Mayor Crystal Dingler. As he walked the trail on Saturday, Angelo Bruscas, former reporter for The Daily World and editor of North Coast News, recalled early conversations with Dingler about the trail about a decade ago, and his recurring question for the mayor: When are you going to get a dune trail?
The city’s official pursuit of the trail began in 2018, when the city initially examined building a dune trail that would also function as a fire break. While those projects were eventually decoupled, the city set aside $264,000 toward the High Dune Trail in its budget in 2019.
Even with additional funding in a grant from the Washington State Department of Transportation, the money proved to be insufficient following inflation-induced price hikes on materials, especially wood, during the pandemic. In 2022 the city secured another $277,000 grant from the Cowlitz-Wahkiakum Council of Governments to fill the gap, and it appeared the trail was ready for construction last June.
But final land surveys, a requirement of state funding, revealed the city didn’t own all of the land where the trail was intended to go. Negotiations stood still for months on a 200-foot section of land in front of the Lighthouse Suites Hotel on the northern end of the trail, as hotel owners argued the trail would disrupt views for guests.
Continued delays prompted the city last September to authorize the use of eminent domain if a deal couldn’t be reached. Ultimately, eminent domain wasn’t necessary — the city signed a $2,800 land use easement in November 2022, the final step before going out to bid for the project.
Although future plans are not confirmed, city officials hope the completion of the first section of the trail will act as a momentum builder toward a longer trail system. A longer trail design was originally planned but removed for the sake of easier funding and planning.