There’s more to providing world class recreational opportunities than bringing people to Washington’s stunning mountains, rivers, and forests. Visitors need amenities: well-built trails, campsites, and trash collection facilities. Some less considerate visitors need cleaning up after, so that others can enjoy a natural landscape free of garbage or graffiti. The larger the public lands, the more hands are needed to keep them healthy and thriving.
Earlier this summer, 61 volunteers turned out to do just that at the second annual Teanaway Community Forest Work Party. Local community members joined recreation groups such as the Washington Trails Association, Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance, the Back Country Horsemen of Washington, and Kittitas County Field and Stream, along with folks from Seattle and curious campers from the nearby campsites. After a safety briefing and tool training, they were given supplies and split into groups to tackle five major projects across the 50,241 acre community forest:
New Cheese Rock Trail: Cheese Rock is a Teanaway landmark, a massive sandstone boulder perched above the West Fork Teanaway campground. For years, the quickest route to the rock was a deeply rutted user-built trail that dumped sediment into a nearby creek. Mountains to Sound Greenway restoration associates led a volunteer crew to cut a new switchback trail to Cheese Rock. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) staff had already roughed in the path, leaving behind plenty of treelimbs to pile up on the old trail to discourage its use and reduce erosion.
Graffiti Cleanup at Cheese Rock: The pockmarked face of Cheese Rock is a mystery to local geologists and a magnet for graffiti. Using nylon brushes, water bladder backpacks and a substance called Elephant Snot, volunteers scrubbed tags off all the reachable parts of the rock. A few marks remained stubbornly out of reach and will require climbing gear to clean, but the results were remarkable.
Equine Waste Compost Bin: The Teanaway Community Forest is a popular destination for local horseback riders, with three campgrounds that provide parking and campsites for trailers. Using materials and a design contributed by DNR, members of the Back Country Horsemen of Washington constructed a massive bin to compost manure, bedding, and hay. And by ‘massive’, we mean ‘the entire crew fits neatly inside’.
Invasive Weed Control: Experts from the Kittitas County Noxious Weed Control Board trained and led volunteers to remove pervasive weeds like knapweed, oxeye daisy, common mullein and Canada thistle from the Teanaway’s meadows. They split into multiple smaller groups and stuffed enough trash bags to fill two truckbeds. Although weeds are a persistent problem, these volunteers now have the knowledge to target them outside the Teanaway as well.
Campground Cleanup: Several families joined the work party to pick up trash and debris from the Teanaway’s three developed campsites (Indian Camp, 29 Pines and Teanaway Campground). The camps were packed almost to capacity, but volunteers collected plastic trash, food wrappers, old cable, and pvc piping. Using one volunteer’s homemade rolling magnet, they pulled half a bucket of nails from the dirt roads and parking areas.
Altogether these 61 volunteers contributed 183 hours of maintenance and restoration work to the Teanaway Community Forest! Afterward, they enjoyed a celebratory BBQ featuring thanks from DNR regional leadership and Kittitas County Commissioners, brats from Owen’s Meats, baked goods from the Cle Elum Bakery, and donated coffee and sides from the Cle Elum Safeway. Other local businesses, including the Cle Elum Farm Store and Bi-Mart, contributed trash bags and cleanup materials.
All of this was made possible by the partnerships fostered through the joint management of the Teanaway Community Forest; it is co-managed by the Washington Department of Natural Resources, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and a 20-person stakeholder Advisory Committee. The unique structure has enabled land managers to leverage the combined strengths, expertise, volunteer bases and project design skills of multiple stakeholder groups (like the Mountains to Sound Greenway) who are passionate about the restoration and sustainable use of the Teanaway. As we look ahead to next year, we hope to continue utilizing these partnerships to identify and tackle user needs in the forest!