Trail work in Santiam Canyon gets boost from state

Travel Salem has received a $50,000 grant from the state to develop outdoor recreation in Santiam Canyon, part of a long-term effort to attract visitors and help the area recover from the September 2020 fires.

Travel Salem’s investment will contribute to a 15-year plan, led by the group Resilient Headwaters, to build, restore and maintain hundreds of miles of trails in the Santiam River Canyon.

On Labor Day in 2020, wildfires tore through Santiam Canyon, east of Salem. The fires burned over 130,000 acres, destroying homes and businesses and displacing over 700 families.

Rebuilding outdoor recreational features will bolster the community and help attract visitors to the region, said Kara Kuh, deputy marketing officer for Travel Salem, in an email to Salem Reporter.

“The hiking, mountain biking, white water rafting, fishing, boating, birding, and more all add to the lure of the Salem area and adds to the quality of life for our residents,” she said.

The grant comes from Travel Oregon’s Small Project Grant Program, which awarded $1.4 million to statewide projects aimed at enhancing regional tourism in January.

The funding will go toward building the connected trail system and identifying new trails and recreational assets, Kuh said. 

The leading organization, Resilient Headwaters, plans to build 110 miles of new forest and water trail connections, restore 48 miles of historic trails and maintain the 80 miles of existing trails by 2036, according to slides provided to Salem Reporter by Travel Salem.

The long-term plan also includes improving alternative transportation options in the area by implementing the Canyon Journeys plan, which includes a proposed water taxi at Detroit Lake, according to the 2021 Santiam Canyon Wildfire Recovery Project. The project also plans to create a paddle trail in the area.

Other groups involved in the project include the Willamette Valley Visitors Association, Travel Oregon, the Willamette National Forest, Salem Area Trail Alliance and Venti’s Restaurants.

Contact reporter Abbey McDonald: [email protected] or 503-704-0355.

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Abbey McDonald joined the Salem Reporter in 2022. She previously worked as the business reporter at The Astorian, where she covered labor issues, health care and social services. A University of Oregon grad, she has also reported for the Malheur Enterprise, The News-Review and Willamette Week.