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The Maloney Creek Trail faced monumental storm damage last November. With many trees having fallen and a concerning washout of the shoreline, the trail is currently closed to the public.

Through the Town of Skykomish’s commitment and the support of the Skykomish Environmental Institute (SEI), a local nonprofit volunteer organization, the Maloney Creek Trail had its grand opening in October 2014. 

The trail project was first conceived during the town’s oil cleanup, as part of the Maloney Creek Restoration Project. Initial funding for the trail project came from the Washington State Department of Ecology, with subsequent funding for interpretive signage from the U.S. Forest Service and Sound Salmon Solutions. After having been set back following the trail’s great progress, the storm’s repercussions are currently being assessed.

Skykomish experienced extreme winds and record-breaking rainfall on Nov. 17, which led to flooding. The town was without power for days, with highway closures on both sides of Skykomish. Many families had standing water in their homes, facing substantial flood damage.

Skykomish Mayor Tony Grider described the aftermath of the storm as “catastrophic and unfortunate.”

“These trees that were probably 80-90 years old came crashing down the creek, which resulted in a piled up log jam near the bridge in town,” Grider said. “If the sediment traps near the creek that were assembled with flood abatement in mind hadn’t been constructed during the Maloney Creek Restoration Project, the logs would have gone through town and might possibly have taken lives.”

In addition to the destruction the community faced, the high winds resulted in trees falling onto the trail and, because of the flooding, the sediment in the creek alongside the trail shifted to new and unsuitable areas.

Located at the end of Thelma Street in Skykomish, the trail is in poor shape. Now that the snow has melted, the current focus will be on tree removal and the reinstatement of the observation platform, followed by an extensive cleanup and an updated geological survey of the land. While local logging experts had evaluated the area for tree safety and a geo-survey had been performed prior to the observation platform’s construction, there was no way to predict the extensive amount of storm damage that would occur roughly one year later.

One of the most substantial results of the destruction of the Maloney Creek Trail was when “fallen trees and flooding waters washed out 10 feet of shoreline in front of the platform that overlooks the waterfalls of the creek,” said Skykomish resident JoAnne Menard.

Menard is the planning director of SEI and project manager for the Maloney Creek Trail Project. Menard said if the storm had not occurred, SEI and the town would currently be crafting and installing interpretive signage throughout the trail that measures slightly under a quarter-mile in length.

 “I am hopeful, even though we still have the cleanup to assess,” Menard said. SEI and the town’s next steps include cleaning up the trail, having the land reevaluated and securing and relocating the viewing platform. “I would love to have it opened and ready for the public this summer.”

While there is hope and motivation to move forward, how quickly the project progresses will ultimately depend on funding. One of the grants Menard acquired has also provided funding for Sound Salmon Solutions staff to educate students from Skykomish School about erosion, salmon dissection and tree planting. While the project was fortunate enough to receive grants for the original project, the devastating storm damage puts the trail back into a state of financial need.

Menard said the town is coordinating with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Department of Ecology, USFS and King County. These government agencies need to be on board and involved in the decision process of the restoration.

“We need to work together to get the creek back to where it was,” Menard said. “The trail and the Maloney Creek restoration all tie into the overall vision for the Town of Skykomish, along with all of the other restoration projects that are coming together. The idea is that local citizens and visitors who come into town can ride a train, take a walk on the trail and spend time near the water.”

To learn about volunteer opportunities or to get involved with the Skykomish Environmental Institute as a member, visit skykomishenvironmentalinstitute.org.