Opening ceremony to commemorate Corvallis to the Sea Trail debut

The Corvallis to the Sea Trail features 60 miles of trail that connects the Heart of the Willamette Valley with the Central Oregon Coast. The Corvallis to the Sea Trail’s opening ceremony will take place on Aug. 21 at 2 p.m. at the Benton County Fairgrounds.

Cara Nixon, News Reporter

After almost 50 years of effort, the Corvallis to the Sea Trail will be hosting an official opening ceremony at the Benton County Fairgrounds.

The event, which will take place on Aug. 21 at 2 p.m., is the second half of a two-part opening ceremony, with the first half taking place at the other end of the trail on Ona Beach in Newport, Ore. at 10 a.m. 

According to C2C President Gary Chapman, the event will recognize volunteers, partners, donors and government entities who made the trail’s completion possible. There will be speakers, drawings for small prizes, shirts and hats for sale and an official ribbon cutting. C2C is asking that those who come to the ceremony wear a mask.

These opening ceremonies recognize no small featdozens of people have been working to get the C2C trail open since the early 1970s. 

According to Chapman, the first recorded instance of a potential trail from Corvallis, Ore. to the Coast was in 1974, after an Oregon State University forestry student, Marty Wong, spent the spring quarter of his senior year exploring and mapping different possible routes for a Corvallis to the Coast trail as part of his senior project. 

Wong then compiled a report, called the Oregon Coast-Willamette Valley Trail, which was circulated by Siuslaw National Forest landscape architect Phil Delucci. 

The idea lived on when in 1976, then Coordinator of the Oregon Recreation Trails System Jack Remington sent a memorandum to the planning coordinator of the Siuslaw National Forest and requested the final plan for the Marys Peak Unit fit in a through trail from Corvallis to the Coast. 

Chapman explained that over the next decade, people consistently tried to come up with a route for the idea that would work effectively and could be approved by landowners, but they were unsuccessful.

A new effort didn’t begin until 1991, when OSU and the United States Forest Service had small groups from two classes complete a project to lay out routes from Corvallis to the Coast.

In 1994, the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service became more serious about the idea and entered a memorandum of understanding. They planned on having a trail from Corvallis to Florence, Ore. with a $1 million price tag. The two agencies wanted the trail done by 1997, but with logging cut back and a lack of funding, the job never got done. 

In 2003, another rebirth of the project began with then Parks Director of Benton County Jerry Davis, who had also been involved with the 1990s efforts. Davis and a few others successfully got together a group of citizens who were interested in helping to pursue the projectChapman was a part of this group and chosen to head the group after a few months. 

“We just kept meeting every month, [and we] studied past records about the trail, we got BLM records to the Forest Service records and county records, looked at all of the successes and problems that they had and used that as our template to proceed forward,” Chapman explained. “We explored over 300 various miles of routing that we might be able to select from.” 

By the year 2009, the group had decided on a trail from Corvallis to Ona Beach. Though they had found a route, they then ran into a new problemthe Forest Service said they didn’t have enough resources to pursue such a trail. 

After negotiating for a couple of years, however, C2C and the Forest Service came to terms for a special-use permit, so C2C can build, maintain and manage the trail on Forest Service land. 

C2C was finally able to build the 60-mile trail, and though they faced impediments due to COVID-19, the route is now able to open after 47 years of effort. 

Louise Marquering, volunteer and communications coordinator for C2C, helped build the trail and has hiked from Corvallis to Ona Beach three times and from Ona Beach to Corvallis once.

“I always wondered what it was like to be the pioneers who first blazed trails coming to Oregon and California,” Marquering said in an email. “After working with Gary Chapman and Rollie Bowers on making the trail, I felt that pioneer spirit.”

Chapman said the trail will be a new experience for hikers, and because it is locally accessible to Corvallis citizens and can be used year-round to day hike or camp in the warmer months, he is hoping it will be popular. 

However, the work on the trail doesn’t end with the opening ceremonies, according to Chapman.

“From an internal standpoint, this is a much-needed ceremonial act,” Chapman said. “It’s a ceremony we want to have just to bring this stage of the trail development to completion, so we can move on with our maintenance program and recruiting volunteers, which is going to be important for us because even though the trail’s done, the work continues.” 

Marquering agreed that though the work continues, the payoff from finishing the trail has already been great. 

“The biggest thrill now is working on the trail and talking with people hiking through,” Marquering said. “It is so exciting to see people using it and thanking us for building it.”