The Olen Family recently installed a new and very special bench on the north end of the Crown Point Trail, near Cascade, to honor the late Erv Olen. Erv was a great advocate for pedestrian trails and an awesome worker bee for Valley County Pathways. We are calling it the “Erv Olen Memorial Bench.”

The bench is located in a beautiful spot that overlooks Lake Cascade near Vista Point. It also just happens to look up at Erv’s favorite elk camp on West Mountain.

Part of the reason we picked that spot is that Erv had put a lot of work into that section of trail. The Putman family had donated a quarter-mile of private property to Valley County Pathways on the north end of the Crown Point Trail.

To marry that section of trail with the existing Crown Point Trail, we were required by the Bureau of Reclamation to build a fence along the eastern boundary of the pathway to keep ATV’s off the trail.

Erv and I worked with Russ Perry of Cascade to build the A-frames for a continuous line of buck fence along the pathway. Jeff Halligan and Damon Yerkes cut a bunch of post and poles in the Boise National Forest and delivered them to the project site. And Clint Kennedy’s Cascade High School science class helped us finish the fencing project by drilling and screwing in the poles to connect the A-frames in a matter of several hours in the fall of 2007. Way to go Cascade High! Those kids rock!

As a longtime runner who had completed the Race to Robie Creek 22 times, Erv was a big fan of pedestrian pathways. He knew the public loved pedestrian pathways. “Build them and the people will come!” he always said.

When we first started talking about forming Valley County Pathways in 2003, I discovered that Erv had been talking to several agencies about trying to build a pathway from Donnelly to Tamarack. I didn’t know him, at the time, but I gave him a call and noted that a bunch of citizens had been meeting and wanted to plan a valley-wide pathway system. Would he like to join us?

Erv thought that was fantastic, and he joined our efforts immediately. We worked together for five years on a variety of projects, including several grant applications to the Idaho Transportation Department to build a pathway from Tamarack Falls to Donnelly. Unfortunately, the topsy-turvy terrain along a narrow strip of land along the lakeshore raised too many questions in the minds of ITD engineers, and our applications were never funded. Someday, they will be.

Erv’s widow, Shirley Olen, a long-time runner and pathway advocate herself, has stepped up to serve on the VC Pathways Board of Directors and she’s our membership coordinator. We are fortunate to have her.

The people who contributed to the bench construction project include Shirley, Shirley’s daughter, Christine and her husband, Emil, Wendy Wilson and Steve Stuebner, and Shirley’s second husband Manuel. Thanks everyone!

In the meantime, the next time you go hiking, biking or cross-country skiing on the Crown Point Trail, take a moment to sit on the Erv Olen Memorial Bench and enjoy the view.

– Steve Stuebner



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