It’s the 25th anniversary of first Mountains to Sound greenway journey
In 1990, Doug McClelland and his then-pregnant wife, Kristie McClelland, joined with a group of 100 hikers and trekked for five days from Snoqualmie Pass to the Seattle waterfront. The purpose of their journey was to bring attention to the natural and historic assets of the landscape.
That march birthed the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust, which formed one year later in 1991.
The Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust works to conserve and enhance the landscape from Seattle across the Cascades to Central Washington, according to its mission statement.
“It was really exciting because it was the first time the vision of expanding conservation went beyond the original Issaquah Alps,” Doug McClelland said of the first trek. “It created a vision that went all the way up to Snoqualmie Pass.”
The first trek brought in people from the federal and state level, and the event was run by the citizen-based Issaquah Trails Club.
“We walked on the railroad grade from Snoqualmie Pass to Rattlesnake Lake with everybody getting blisters because it had just opened up,” Doug McClelland said. “We used ropes to get on segments of the trails.”
The McClellends returned for the 10th anniversary trek in 2000 and the 20th anniversary trek in 2010, accompanied by their son Jacob.
This year the family will return once more to the greenway for the 25th anniversary of the original greenway march. The nine-day hiking and biking trip from Ellensburg to Seattle is July 11-19.
The Greenway Trust
The Mountains to Sound Greenway connects 1.5 million acres surrounding Interstate 90. More than 900,000 acres of land are publicly owned and another 100,000 acres are conserved as permanent private forests.
“The whole concept of doing a Mountains to Sound Greenway was created on a trek,” said Margaret Ullman-Hess, Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust communications manager. “It was 25 years ago that a group of interested citizens all came together and said, ‘Let’s walk these woods. Let’s walk these trails. Let’s see how special it is.’ At that point they just hiked from Snoqualmie Pass to the water in Seattle. In later years it expanded.”
The Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust is run by a 60-member board of directors, which Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust coalition director Amy Brockhaus said works well together.
“Our board meetings are very enjoyable,” she said. “It’s a lot of sharing of information. We eat dinner together. It’s really trying to connect people to each other that could be working together or informing each other of projects.”
McClelland has stayed involved with the trust since that first walk 25 years ago, and sits on the board of directors.
“It’s nice to be part of a project where you leave the political labels behind and you’re working on a common interest,” he said.
McClelland said he’s stayed involved because he works for the Washington State Department of Natural Resources, which has been a major player working with the trust and public lands.
“My career has always been in the greenway,” he said. “I’ve been on the board since the beginning.”
Brockhaus has worked for the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust for 20 years, and during that time she’s seen the trust grow.
In the early days, the organization’s founder Jim Ellis would pull people together who would not normally sit down together — like timber companies and environmentalists — to find common ground.
“That tradition continues, but the groups are a little different now,” Brockhaus said. “We have 60 members on the board from heads of public agencies, companies, conservation groups and nonprofits and we’re finding places where we can work together. A lot of that work results in some of the land conservation transactions that have happened over the years.”
Brockhaus said other work has included connection trails, hiking trails, climbing trails, improving ecological conditions and working with partner agencies.
She said part of the organization’s future plans include focusing on recreation access on both sides of the mountains, and making sure facilities are built to handle increasing recreation use.
“We have a population in our state and this region specifically that really wants to get out and enjoy nature,” she said.
McClelland said another key focus in the future is getting the greenway designated as a national heritage area. He said there is also more land acquisition that needs to occur, as well as recreation trail and trailhead development.
McClelland said the biggest impact the trust has had over the years has been the land acquisition and land ownership changes.
“Taking a landscape that was a real checkerboard, fragmented, and conserving it for future generations is a big deal,” he said, adding that now the challenge is making sure the communities in the Mountains to Sound Greenway are places people want to live.
People can choose to participate in the full trek, a single-day trip or a long weekend during the July celebration. Highlights of the trek include traveling through 100-year-old former railway tunnels on the John Wayne Pioneer Trail and discovering some of the scenic trails in the Cascade Mountains and Issaquah Alps.
“We have a whole team of leaders that are going to be on the entire trek,” Ullman-Hess said. “We really wanted to make this event as flexible as possible.”
The 133-mile, nine-day trek starts at a camp in Ellensburg on Saturday, July 11. Participants will each receive a map of the route.
“Each step of the way they’re going to be getting detailed information on how to join, what nights they’ll be spending with us,” Ullman-Hess said. “We’ll have a team of volunteer leaders and staff leaders. It really is each morning, circling up and going over the route.”
The trek gets moving on day two, Sunday, July 12, when participants will bike 25 miles from Ellensburg to South Cle Elum. Day 3 will take bicyclists on a 29-mile ride from South Cle Elum to Snoqualmie Pass, and the ride on day four will be 26 miles to Rattlesnake Lake.
From there, the trek shifts to hiking. Day five takes hikers from Rattlesnake Lake to Snoqualmie Point Park; day six, Snoqualmie Point Park to Preston; day seven, Preston to Issaquah; day eight, Issaquah to Bellevue; and day nine, Bellevue to Seattle.
People interested in the full trek must sign up by June 15 to secure their spot.
Brockhaus has been on the 10th anniversary trek and the 20th anniversary trek, and plans to participate this year. She said the experience brings participants closer together.
“It’s fantastic because you get to see some of the length and breadth of the greenway and really spend all day for nine days outdoors,” Brockhaus said. “What happens on these treks too is that the people on these treks that go for that length of time, really bond. They become good friends and future stewards of the greenway.”
Ullman-Hess said the full nine-day trek usually draws about 100 people, with another 100 or so attending each single day portion of the event.
“We hike and bike as a big group,” Ullman-Hess said. “It’s such a social event.”
Youth under 18 are welcome but must be accompanied by an adult. The trek is not recommended for those younger than 12 years old.
To register or for more information like trek fees, visit http://mtsgreenway.org.