A Plan for Silver Star's Future
Silver Star mountain in Southwest Washington is a beloved destination facing access issues. The Silver Star Coalition is looking to help with that.
Silver Star Mountain has been a popular hiking destination for decades. WTA has worked in and around the area for many years to maintain the trails people love so much. But a deteriorating road and user conflicts are interfering with the trail experience. For this Southwest landscape to remain accessible, a plan is needed. WTA and others are working to create that!
Silver Star: A stunning and iconic hiking destination
Silver Star Mountain is situated in the southwest corner of Gifford Pinchot National Forest, beside the Yacolt Burn State Forest. The area around the mountain follows a unique ridgeline, boasting skyline views of Mount St. Helens, wildflower meadows and landscape shaped by volcanic activity.
“When fall snow dusts the ridges north of Vancouver, Silver Star Mountain and its adjacent ridges light up,” said Ryan Ojerio, WTA’s Southwest regional manager. “As well as a special place for hikers, it is home to an impressive array of unique wildflower species, mountain goats and has cultural significance stretching back thousands of years.”
These features are exactly what have led the U.S. Forest Service to designate the place a Special Interest Scenic Area due to its exceptional scenic, geologic, botanical and cultural significance.
"Views were absolutely spectacular from the summit. We could see at least seven volcanoes..." — NatalieH, May 19, 2019
"All along the way surrounded by the greatest variety of wildflowers. The air was sweet with the scent of nectar and abuzz with the sounds of bees going about their business. Butterflies, moths and hummingbirds were also appreciating this floral bounty." — Stayfray, July 18, 2020
1970’s-Today: A brief history of Silver Star & WTA
Silver Star’s Special Interest Scenic Area designation comes from a long history of local advocates recognizing and working for the protection of the unique area. The Ptarmigans, a climbing club based in southwest Washington, first proposed the concept in the mid-1970s, and were supported by local chapters of the Audubon Society, the Gifford Pinchot Study Group, the American Alpine Club and others.
In 1993, the Forest Service approved a trails plan that added new trails, improved road access, and converted some roads to trails in the Silver Star area. The Chinook Trail Association (CTA) spearheaded construction of these new trail segments. In 2004, WTA had the opportunity to partner with the CTA, the Forest Service, and the Department of Natural Resources to work in the area. WTA secured a grant that funded the installation of 500 boulders to block vehicle access to 10 locations where motorized use had been impacting fragile meadows, and permitting signs that shared use restrictions with the public. WTA and CTA volunteers built new trails and planted trees to restore places where the old road had been decommissioned.
But as the road to the area degraded over time, so did access to the area. It even became difficult to get volunteer trail work parties in for regular maintenance. This, coupled with user conflicts and vandalism, set the stage for intervention in the Silver Star area.
In July 2019, WTA staff led a tour of the road and hike on Ed’s Trail, joined by Forest Service leadership from the Ranger District and Supervisor’s Office. Their conversation started with the state of the road, but quickly evolved into the need to develop a bigger picture for the Silver Star area.
A coalition effort to envision the future for Silver Star
Enter the Silver Star Vision Plan Project. Washington Trails Association has gathered a group to collaborate to define a vision for the Silver Star area that is shared among a diverse set of stakeholders including trail users, environmental groups and land management agencies regarding use and access.
The coalition’s steering committee is made up of representatives from trail user groups and land management agencies that steward the Silver Star and Yacolt Burn State Forest areas, including the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Washington Department of Natural Resources, Back Country Horsemen of Washington, Chinook Trail Association, Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance, Washington Trails Association, and Washington Trail Riders Riders Association. Facilitation and technical support is provided by the National Park Service Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance program.
This notable coalition of people is working together and with the public to form a comprehensive plan for the future recreation management of Silver Star. This robust vision plan will address key infrastructure elements like roads and trailheads as part of the sustainable trail system. It will also establish community collaboration to carry out any recommendations the plan suggests. Recently, the coalition surveyed the public and received 700 responses. In the survey responses, adventurers highlighted the need for better road access, a desire to protect the ridgetop meadows, and improved mitigation of activities like litter, vandalism and unmanaged target shooting.
Designing a modern trail system for all kinds of users
The Silver Star Vision Plan Project fits perfectly into our Trails Rebooted campaign and our work towards our vision of Trails for Everyone, Forever. Through our Trails Rebooted work, WTA finds solutions to support popular recreation areas by improving existing trails, championing the construction of new ones and helping hikers see the role they play in the future of trails. The Trails Rebooted campaign has left its mark in southwest Washington before with WTA’s work to create two new trail loops in the Lyle Cherry Orchard.
The Silver Star Coalition appreciates the work of previous efforts to protect the area, and wants to build upon this for future generations. Silver Star is a perfect nexus for the Trails Rebooted work as a beloved attraction that needs some planning investments to be made sustainable for years to come.
The planning process for Silver Star’s future exemplifies how a modern trail system can be designed with equity in mind. The Coalition seeks to improve opportunities for a wide range of abilities and to find a solution that reflects the input and needs of many different kinds of users.
More opportunities to weigh in
After analyzing feedback from the recreation survey, the Silver Star Vision Plan Project Steering Committee will seek input from other groups who have insights and interests in the project — such as environmental groups, tribes, hunters and folks who enjoy winter recreation in the area to name a few. The Steering Committee will drive the information gathering process, but the outcome will reflect everyone’s common interests. The team anticipates sharing these recommendations this winter and will look for public input once they are drafted.
Do you have any thoughts on Silver Star? The project team is always welcoming feedback! Find more information, including contact info, on the project website.