Keeping Trails Open and Safe
The Cle Elum Ranger District of the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest is known for its incredible hiking, biking, horse riding, snowshoeing, and other recreational adventures. Located on the eastern side of the Mountains to Sound Greenway, the district has more than 800 miles of trail, many of which – including a stretch of the nationally renowned Pacific Crest Trail – are in designated Wilderness areas, and are favorites for Kittitas County locals and for visitors from across the Greenway.
However, some of these trails are in need of some serious repairs. The challenge is finding funding. In a time of continuously declining public funding, the Cle Elum Ranger District has limited resources to care for these well-loved trails. This year, the Cle Elum Ranger District has only a small handful of staff to manage the entire network of non-motorized trails and recreation sites in the 375,000 acre region.
That’s where the Greenway Trust and local volunteers can lean in and help. Since 2012, the Greenway Trust has led 30 trail projects in the Upper Yakima Basin. This past summer, the Greenway crews spent several weeks camped in the backcountry, repairing damage on the Pacific Crest Trail, Dutch Miller Trail, Lake Michael Trail, and Ivanhoe Lake Trail. These scenic trails lead hikers and equestrians through old growth forests, lush meadows, towering peaks, and into the pristine Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area. Unfortunately, these trails have sustained damage over the years, creating safety hazards for users. The trail crews worked to mitigate these hazards by repairing tread, constructing minor structures, clearing heavy brush, and removing fallen trees.
The Back Country Horsemen of Washington (BCHW) is a valued partner in this work. In addition to helping the USFS with clearing logs and trail repair, BCHW volunteers have provided packing support for our projects – their volunteers will meet our trail crews at the trailhead, load up their horses with gear, and mobilize tools, food, and equipment into the backcountry, allowing our crews to move in quicker and farther and accomplish more during an 8-day spike. A trail that has not been properly maintained can be very problematic for equestrians; bad tread areas can cause horses to trip and brushy areas force horses off trail. Our work will help ensure equestrians and other users have access to a safe and enjoyable trail network in the Upper Kittitas Basin.
Local volunteers have also played a key role in repairing these trails. Since 2012, the Greenway Trust has worked with homeowners in the Suncadia community, near Roslyn, on several nearby trail projects including the Cooper River Trail, Esmeralda Basin Trail, and Little Joe Lake Trail. Each year, Suncadia residents join the Greenway Trust for a volunteer project to improve a local trail that they, their families, and their friends enjoy. This group of neighbors is committed to making a positive impact on the trails in their community.
The Greenway Trust is very grateful for these partners. We could not accomplish all that we do without the support of these groups and individuals who serve as stewards of their local trails.
Trail maintenance efforts across the Greenway are made possible by grants from the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office, generous contributions from the REI Co-op, and donations from other partners and supporters.