U.S. Interior Secretary David L. Bernhardt isn't exactly known to be a friend of the environment.
The former oil and agribusiness lobbyist has faced ethics complaints since practically the first day he was sworn into office as deputy secretary in 2017, and faced allegations that he used his position to help a previous client and blocked the release of a scientific report.
But today, Bernhardt and the agency that oversees the country's 500 million acres of public land and coastal waters finally delivered some good news for outdoors enthusiasts, both locally and on a national scale.
The Interior Department designated the Tualatin River Water Trail as one of the newest routes in the National Trails System. The 35-mile stretch of the tributary that meanders through Washington and Clackamas Counties, forming much of the city of Tualatin's northern boundary, is one of 30 new trails joining the federal network, which includes trails not just on the water but land as well.
By definition, a water trail features multiple access points, resting places and attractions for users of people-powered vessels along lakes and rivers. They also involve shore land preservation and stewardship programs.
In 2011, Metro councilors voted to fund the first studies to make the Tualatin a water trail. The calm river made it an ideal candidate, and there are now more than a dozen launch points from West Linn to Hillsboro, with two of the most popular being the easy-to-access Cook and Brown's Ferry parks. Paddling the Tualatin also offers an abundance of wildlife-spotting opportunities, particularly birds, like egrets and herons.
Overall, today's announcement added more than 1,275 miles to the National Trails System in 25 states.