Photo courtesy of Jan Satterthwaite

Rah Rah Roslyn!

I can’t believe I get paid to do this.

That’s all I could think of as I hauled flipcharts and boxes of markers into our meeting space in Roslyn, a historic coal mining town on the eastern slopes of the Cascade Mountains scented with ponderosa pine from the forested ridge above.

I’m lucky to work as a Student Conservation Association/AmeriCorps intern for a community assistance program in the National Park Service called Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance (RTCA). We help communities build partnerships and plan projects in conservation and outdoor recreation. On this brisk October Friday, we packed our van with art supplies and hiking boots and headed roughly 80 miles east of Seattle to Roslyn.

Besides its commitment to local history and architecture, this community of only 900 people has a Dark Skies Ordinance and one of the strictest Critical Areas Ordinances in Washington State. For most folks, Roslyn’s claim to fame is serving as the backdrop for the popular 1990s television show “Northern Exposure,” but that’s not the reason why the National Park Service is involved. We’re here because this town boasts more than 300 acres of permanently protected working forest within its city limits.

In 2004, Roslyn’s nonprofit organization, RIDGE, reached a settlement with adjacent resort Mountainstar (now Suncadia) for the City of Roslyn to acquire forested lands on the ridge surrounding the city and adjacent to Roslyn’s historical cemeteries. This means more than 62 percent of the City of Roslyn is forested.

The Roslyn Urban Forest (RUF) is a working forest. It’s an outdoor classroom for students from around the region. It’s a protected habitat for species that need maturing pine forests to thrive. It’s a tourist destination for hikers, mountain bikers, equestrians, naturalists, birders, families, and history buffs. It’s a filtration system for rain that could help mitigate impacts from stormwater rushing down from the ridge above.

The town recognizes the Roslyn Urban Forest as an important resource to connect people to the outdoors and Roslyn to the rest of the region. To support this resource, Roslyn’s citizens are developing a comprehensive trail and recreation plan to promote non-motorized recreation in the forest. Through a partnership with the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), RTCA brought together a team of 13 landscape architects from around the state for a pro-bono design workshop to work with the Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC), The Wilderness Society and local experts on a visual concept plan for the Roslyn Urban Forest. For one and a half days, we learned, brainstormed, drew, and prepared for a public open house to showcase the community’s vision for the future.

“The work accomplished at this workshop pushed the Roslyn Urban Forest’s trails and recreation plan two or three years ahead,” said Mitch Long, workshop participant and City of Roslyn liaison to the Citizens Advisory Committee.

At the end of the open house, we were wiped out, still caffeinated, and colored in markers, but honored to be part of this critical step in Roslyn’s visioning process. I would have pinched myself to make sure it actually happened if my hands weren’t so tired from writing. The wind was calm as we carried the supplies back to the van in the moonlight, but the energy still hovered over the town like the scent of pines. I suspect it will last for countless generations, like the forest it supports.

Emily and JasperEmily and Jasper

Emily can be reached at or
6-220-4118. For more information about the Rivers and Trails program, please click here.