Discover Teanaway: Developing a Recreation Plan for the State’s First Community Forest

Fall has settled in across Washington and nowhere is that more evident than beneath the trees in Teanaway Community Forest.

The sun cast a warm glow across the landscape through a kaleidoscope of yellow, red, and fiery orange leaves on Friday afternoon for gathering members of the Teanaway Community Forest Advisory Committee.

Over the past 18 months, the departments of Natural Resources (DNR) and Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and the committee developed a supplemental recreation plan for Teanaway to be included in the community forest’s management plan developed in 2015.

The recreation plan puts opportunity on the page for hiking, camping, mountain biking, horseback riding, scenic driving, and motorcycling, as well as fishing, hunting, and nature activities. It will serve as a guide for the management of recreation and public access in the Teanaway over the next 15 years.

On Oct. 24, the plan will enter a two-week State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) comment period—one of the final steps in the development process. The agencies and committee anticipate adopting the recreation plan in early December.

Teanaway

“The Teanaway is a special place that means a lot to people – that was evident throughout the planning process,” said Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz. “They’ve helped develop an environmentally responsible recreation plan that will shape family and outdoor adventures in the Teanaway for generations to come.”

Commissioner Franz leads DNR in managing 1,100 miles of trails and 160-plus recreation sites in 3 million acres of working forest state trust lands and 92 natural areas.

As more members of the committee arrived to talk about the final phases of the recreation plan, two riders saddled up their gaited horses for an afternoon ride and a family returned from a hike along the Middle Fork Teanaway River with their dogs. Even on a workday, people found time to escape into Teanaway.

Teanaway has a long history of impact for generations of humans who have looked to it as a jewel in Central Washington—there is evidence of Native Americans inhabiting the area 11,500 years ago.

Teanaway Horses

In 2013, the state legislature established the Teanaway Community Forest. The advisory committee assembled to assist DNR and DFW in developing a management plan. They completed the plan in 2015—though it didn’t include a recreation plan yet. Everyone decided that would take a little more time to get right.

“So many people have a tie to the Teanaway and everyone who comes here just falls in love with it,” Larry Leach, Southeast Region assistant manager, said. “Making this place a better forest—and that includes everything in the forest—that’s what’s rewarding and why we put so much effort into this.”

The agencies and committee spent 18 months listening to extensive community input and developing a plan that identified recreation opportunities that were compatible with the priority of conservation and restoration of the upper Yakima Basin as part of the Yakima Basin Integrated Water Resource Management Plan.

“It’s been a remarkable group of 20 of us who come from many different walks of life and many interest areas,” Martha Wyckoff, neighboring landowner and committee member, said. “We’re not all of one like mind but we’ve come to find the civic process to be very rewarding. We worked well together to serve the community, serve the forest, and create a plan that we believe will be great for this community for the next 15 of years.”

Throughout the process, one thing became abundantly clear: People love and care deeply for Teanaway.

Capture

In the summer of 2017, more than 2,600 people participated in a survey to provide input and ideas regarding recreational opportunity in Teanaway.

The agencies and committee developed a “word cloud” depicting the most common words and phrases used in the survey participants’ responses. The more common the word, the larger it appears.

Hunting, trails, riding, camping, hiking, wildlife, great, quiet, beautiful, family—that’s what Teanaway represents for users.

The agencies and committee had their work cut out for them.

Planning for the seasons

The recreation plan addresses the seasonal variations presented by the area and separates its overall management strategies into two seasonal groups: “Spring, Summer, and Fall” and “Winter”.

The agencies and committee opted for this route after looking at biological, soil, geologic, and management constraints across the landscape throughout the year. This approach considers the needs of wildlife during some seasons and threats of soil erosion and damage to river floodplains in others. Ultimately, these primary management objectives come together to managing sustainable trails, camping areas, and trailheads.

“We’ve worked hard to make sure recreational uses are compatible with watershed protection and other values that were identified in the overall management plan,” said WDFW Director Kelly Susewind.

The advisory committee originally assembled to develop the 2015 Teanaway Community Forest Management Plan, so the members had a strong understanding of the five guiding goals for management in the area:

  • Protect and enhance the water supply and protect the watershed
  • Maintain working lands for forestry and grazing while protecting key watershed functions and aquatic habitat
  • Maintain and where possible expand recreational opportunities consistent with watershed protection, for activities such as hiking, fishing, hunting, horseback riding, camping, birding, and snowmobiling
  • Conserve and restore vital habitat for fish, including steelhead, spring Chinook, and bull trout, and wildlife, including deer, elk, large predators, and spotted owls
  • Support a strong community partnership, in which the Yakama Nation, residents, business owners, local governments, conservation groups, and others provide advice about ongoing land management

“They offered up solutions that helped us balance the habitat needs and the water quality needs and the restoration intent of the forest,” Leach said. “Really, the outcome of the plan is to improve what is already here for recreation and sustain what already is an incredible place to come and play.”

Perhaps the coolest part about recreation in Teanaway is the partnerships that have allowed the opportunity for visitors to discover different towns and landscapes during their adventures.

From the U.S. Forest Service providing connections to multi-use trails in Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest to the non-motorized trails stretching over Cle Elum Ridge to the communities of Cle Elum, Roslyn and Ronald, collaboration between agencies will play a big roll connecting recreationists to opportunities for play across this incredible landscape.

Spring, Summer, and Fall Concept

The priorities for Spring, Summer, and Fall primarily focus on non-motorized recreation. It includes hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, camping, fishing, hunting, and nature activities. However, it also establishes a scenic driving route for motorized fun.

Doug McClelland and the Teanaway recreation Plan
Doug McClelland, DNR Teanaway recreation Planning, looks at the Summer recreation in the draft recreation plan.

The scenic driving routes will follow forest roads from Indian Camp to the North Fork Teanaway Road, giving recreationists beautiful views of the Teanaway Butte area and restoration activities along Lick Creek. These routes will also enhance connections at Jack Creek Road to Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest and Hwy 97.

In addition to the scenic driving route, the plan outlines zones for trail development—including trailheads with parking, restrooms, and information kiosks.

Recreationists can also expect to see improvements at the Teanaway, 29 Pines, and Indian Camp camping areas.

Winter

For the winter months, the recreation plan outlines enhanced groomed motorized and non-motorized trails with opportunities for dispersed snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing.

This includes zones for a snowmobile area to enhance the groomed snowmobile trail network, and a non-motorized winter recreation area for non-motorized winter activities and sports. Sno-parks will be located at 29 Pines camp area for access to the snowmobile area and at the West Teanaway camp area for access to the non-motorized winter recreation area.

Warming Huts will be developed and managed in cooperation with user groups.

Get involved

From those who volunteered to be on the committee to help develop management and recreation for generations to come to the community members who have attended meetings to share their ideas and insights, it’s evident that Teanaway is a special place to people across the state.

Now, there’s one more chance to get involved and share your thoughts.

Community members and recreationists are invited to attend the comment period kick-off meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 24 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Putnam Centennial Center in Cle Elum. Attendees will have an opportunity to learn about the concepts, priorities, strategies, and tools from the planning effort and learn how to comment during the environmental review.

The recreation plan begins its SEPA review on Oct. 24 and will be open for comment through Nov. 7.