CAPE D — The Cape Disappointment Trail will open soon.
But despite several optimistic online postings last week, the Ilwaco trail is not open yet.
Chief Warrant Officer Jason McCommons, commander of the U.S. Coast Guard at Cape D, said it will be open for limited access this weekend.
The trail is a joint project with the U.S. Coast Guard and the Washington State Parks whose jurisdictions abut each other. The portion maintained by State Parks is a dirt trail; the Coast Guard base has a paved road to the lighthouse.
Access for walkers will be through a lockable gate at the trailhead from the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center. It will be open from 8 a.m. to dusk daily — but only when the weather is fine.
The trail was closed at the end of June 2020 amid the discovery of vandalism and continuing safety concerns. Of particular concern was access to Deadman’s Cove, a scenic inlet in the basalt cliffs at Washington state’s southwestern tip. Some hikers who flouted “no trespassing” signs have had to be rescued in the last few years. Officials have warned about the dangers of the significantly eroding slope amid ramped up worries about liability.
McCommons said the closure had been necessary. “We found drug paraphernalia and graffiti and damage to our Aids to Navigation boards,” he said. “People had been going inside the lighthouse and our watch tender tower and harassing our people.”
He said he was eager for the community to be able to enjoy the trails, although the interior of the 1856 lighthouse remains closed to all visitors because of its deteriorating condition. “But if we see an uptick in crime, vandalism or drug use, we will shut the gates again,” he said.
Weather will be the other key. “If it’s nasty, I am going to keep them closed.”
Last week, the Coast Guard, which has performed some landscaping improvements, completed the installation of new fencing. State Parks personnel will perform some final brush clearing before the opening.
The Interpretive Center, which is maintained by State Parks, closed for part of 2020 because of covid health safety concerns. It is open daily through October.