Crews dug in this week on the Starvation Creek-Lindsey Creek piece of the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail (seven miles west of Hood River), a grand scale effort uniting state and federal transportation agencies and historic groups to build a continuous hiking and biking trail from Troutdale to The Dalles.

The Lindsey Creek portion of the project, slated for completion by fall, will include a new bridge over Warren Creek and an overlook at Hole-in-the-Wall Falls.

U.S. Forest Service workers began clearing brush in December, but this week marks the first heavy duty work on the highway trail.

Knud Martin, Federal Highway Administration project manager, said erosion control and tree selection were the main tasks Wednesday. Crews picked trees that needed to be saved, and laid down stakes marking all right of way paths.

Colf Landscape Construction of Vancouver, who were contracted for the $2.8 million job between Starvation and Lindsey creeks, were bustling on scene Wednesday afternoon, leveling ground with a mini-excavator.

The project is to construct 1.32 miles of the state trail, a connector for future phases of the trail system extending to the west. The work also includes a 50-foot span bridge for bikers and hikers meandering along sections of the Historic Columbia River State Highway through forests and by Hole in the Wall Falls, and crossing Warren and Wonder Creeks.

The trail will halt at a dead end until the next 2.7-mile section of trail, running from Lindsey Creek to Wyeth, is built over the next three years. This part of the project, set to finish in 2018, will take tricky engineering to squeeze a path within Shellrock Mountain Crossing, and rock blasting to make the trail possible along the tight Interstate 84 corridor.

Hole in the Wall Falls and Cabin Creek Falls are closed to the public weekdays while crews take on the Lindsey-Starvation Creek part of the work. The tentative completion date is Aug. 31.

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