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A concerned citizen's outlook on the Dosewallips River Road Washout

The Dosewallips River Road was washed out several years ago by the Dosewallips River. Since that time, controversy has plagued the National Forest Service regarding the rebuilding of the road. Almost all Brinnon residents and land owners want the road repaired and reconstructed. They want to see access to the Olympic National Park restored. They feel that it is critical to the economic and cultural health of the local community in South County.

On the other side of the debate are outsiders, primarily from other counties, who think that the repaired road would cause stress on natural resources. They claim that the road should not be repaired, and that those who wish to visit the National Park could hike the entire road past the ten-mile point where the road was washed away.

In addition to the repair of the road, an effort is underway to repair and re-open the Dosewallips River Trail. This trail was first created sometime around 1913. sat down with a local citizen who has lived in Brinnon, Washington since 1983. He owns property right on the Dosewallips River Road. The following is the interview with Ken Shock.

BP: Ken, thank you for taking the time to discuss your concerns over the rebuilding of the Dosewallips River Road. Can you start by explaining how the Brinnon Community views this issue?

KS: Sure. During this last summer, I attended a number of community functions including two public meetings where the public were able to meet and question the candidates for County Commissioner. At the first of these Candidate Nights, I caused the question to be asked of the candidates, and, also of all area residents who were present, as to whether the Dosewallips Road should be rebuilt. Although one candidate expressed reservations based on environmental concerns, when a poll of all present at the meeting was taken, there was no opposition, except by that candidate, to the rebuilding of the road. I also attended Chamber of Commerce meetings for the South County area, and again, no opposition was voiced. As a result of continuous discussion with community members and attendance to above mentioned meetings it is apparent that there is nearly unanimous support for the rebuilding of the Dosewallips Road. (Note: Read some letters in support of reopening the Dosewallips River Road.)

BP: So, what's the problem, Ken?

KS: As you might expect, there are several environmentally-oriented groups who have expressed outright opposition to this road rebuilding.

BP: Who are they and where are they from?

KS: (Laughter) Well, they're not from Brinnon! Nor do most of their members seem to be from Jefferson County, at all! That factor right there is the exact reason I have decided to do this website, so that our local people can have a voice in this matter. I find it disconcerting that there are mechanisms in place within the environmental regulations, as they presently stand, that enable such groups to have significant economic impact on communities to which they do not belong. These regulations allow little opportunity for such communities to defend themselves because of the highly specialized and complex (convoluted) nature of the regulations. We will attempt to address this significant imbalance. My son Scott, who is a licensed Civil/Environmental Engineer, will edit this website. We intend to have a real hard look at the scientific aspect of the objections filed by these outsiders, who have been having such an adverse economic impact on our community.

BP: What economic impact are you referring to?

KS: It is acknowledged by everyone in Jefferson County, from the County Commissioners on down, that South Jefferson County is an economically-depressed area. These communities have historically been dependent on logging and the harvest of seafoods. These two economic contributors have by-and-large fallen by the wayside, partly due to the impact of some of these same outside groups. Many of us here, in South County, are conservationists. We view our beautiful river valleys as our greatest asset, and, are willing to live without the logging income, for example. Many of us have viewed tourism as a viable alternative to provide jobs and economic well-being in our area. In the year prior to the washout of the Dose road, the National Park records showed that there were approximately 26,000 visitors to the Dosewallips River trail head area. Several years before that, when the now-replaced and popular Westfork Trail Bridge was destroyed, there had been at least 50,000 visitors signing in each year. These visitors were providing the key for any potential economic growth in South Jefferson County. There are virtually no visitors to this Eastern Portal of the Olympic National Park, now!

BP: OK, so these groups can file appeals that cause damages to the area economy, but what is the downside for the groups or the people involved?

KS: Well, up until now, I really haven't seen any. They get grants, you know, for doing this sort of thing--grants from wealthy foundations and individuals. They may have free legal assistance available. It becomes a livelihood for some. In essence, they seem to have a system of beliefs which is quasi-religious; "The world will be much better off if we restore the wilderness, complete with carnivorous predators. The roads, shelters and other creature comforts must be removed to create a seamless Wild Olympic place. The Dose road was a wound, that must now be healed. Mother Nature is always right, don't you know?" (Until we get nailed by a huge asteroid, that is.) They are using the special advantages that the convoluted environmental regulations afford them, to enforce their system of beliefs upon the rest of us. How can they expect to continually cause economic damages to others, while having no risk for themselves?

BP: Are there proposals for rebuilding the road, for repairing the washout area?

KS: The Forest Service is at a point of making a decision on whether or not they will rebuild the road, and if they do, how the road should be rebuilt. The only remaining option left for vehicular access to the Olympic National Park via the Dose road is for the road to be build up around the washout area. The washout area itself is no longer in consideration for repair. They want to bypass the area all together. Alternative C proposes to reroute the road up-slope of the existing washout - take a look at option C at for the details.

BP: What are the other options?

KS: The environmental groups from outside the community, as mentioned before, are opposed to vehicular access and some have declared that this road should never have been built. They would like to see the road converted to a trail.

BP: So, what is the problem with that?

KS: You would not be asking that question if you were my age! (Laugh) I am sure that these over-zealous environmental folks are, for the most part, quite physically fit, and that adding a ten mile round-trip to a day hike is no big deal for them. I consider them selfish, however, because they want to exclude the handicapped, the elderly, the infirm, and the very young. Sure, I can see their point--they want this world-class National Park all to themselves! They appear to be aware, as is evident in some of their writings in their newsletters, that conversion of this road to a trail and keeping this road closed during their appeal processes will have significant adverse economic impact to Brinnon and South Jefferson County. But, this is the exact reason that our local citizenry are nearly unanimous in wanting this road rebuilt as soon as possible. We have already lost these visitors for two summer seasons. They have gone elsewhere, which is exactly, I believe, the intent of the radical position.

BP: Is this part of a bigger effort by these groups to discourage use of public lands?

KS: Well, there are plenty of national examples of this policy at work. Just an example is documented at This is an outrage. These National Parks were established out of the laws of the 1800's, which clearly mandated the easy access by the general public to the enjoyment and recreational use of these lands.

BP: Is this policy against public use one that is pursued in Jefferson County?

KS: I understand that the new National Park superintendent in Port Angeles is pushing hard to see this road repaired, or vehicular access provided in an alternative plan. But, these outside groups are doing everything in their power to influence these decisions.

BP: When was the road first built?

KS: When we talk about the history of Brinnon, and of the Dosewallips Road, anyone living in South County would recognize that Vernon Bailey and Ida Bailey are the resident authorities. There is little that I could add to the essays which they have agreed to write on these two topics and which are shown on the website. The Baileys have written, "The Book" on Brinnon. As far as I know, it is the only book in existence on this South County community. Copies of this book, "The Scrapbook of Brinnon," are available at the Quilcene Museum, Linda's Gifts and Videos, and other locations. (See side bar for links to these essays: Vernon's and Ida's - Editor). Suffice it to say that this road was built over 70 years ago. At the trail head there is hydro power and radio access. This facility has provided timely rescue for those who have emergencies while in the park. Having vehicular access aids in this emergency effort.

BP: So there are more than the economic negatives, if the road is not rebuilt?

KS: Absolutely, there are public safety issues and fire fighting needs. Most importantly, there is the extraordinary importance of the beneficial effect that this access has provided to more than a million visitors over 70 years. They have gone away inspired, their spirits moved, and no doubt convinced of the necessity of preserving such places. I have seen them there over the years--the very young to the very old, sharing one of God's great gifts. The opponents to this road begrudge this public use, like Ebeneezer Scrooge, "BAH HUMBUG!"

BP: So what's next then?

KS: We are forming a 501(c)3 non-profit corporation called, "Brinnon Prosperity." We are soliciting funding from area residents, hiking clubs, whitewater clubs, ADA and other handicapped groups, far and wide. We will reach out to the AARP and Good Sam and other RV clubs. Our Chamber of Commerce is assisting in this. If the Forest Service decides to rebuild this road, we will work to ensure that the implementation of that decision is not thwarted. If an appeal is filed, it will be examined under the microscope of the finest science available. We will carefully weigh whether such an appeal is a frivolous delay tactic, resulting in still another lost tourist season for South Jefferson County, with the attendant further damages to local business. We are prepared to fight to defend our economy and our public access--no more "cake walks" for the opposition!

Who is Ken Shock?

Ken has lived in the Brinnon area for a number of decades, and is a property owner in Brinnon, including on the Dosewallips River. Ken is an environmentalist who also believes in equal access to our National treasures, such as our National Parks and Wilderness areas. Ken's son, Scott, is also a professional environmentalist, who grew up in the Brinnon area, and now works hard to sustain natural resources.