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Rebooting a Trail for the Future

Posted by Jessi Loerch at Jul 24, 2020 07:00 PM |

Sharpe Park is just one example of how we’re improving trails in popular areas.

By Barbara Budd

The view from Sares Head is stunning: mountains, islands, marine life, the Salish Sea.

A few years ago, the hike to that view was more than a little challenging. Hikers had to take care not to trip on exposed roots or slip on a narrow, sloping and often muddy trail. But in 2013, a WTA youth work party started what was to become a yearslong project at Sharpe Park, the Skagit County park where you’ll find Sares Head.

In more than 90 work parties over the last 7 years, hundreds of WTA volunteers of all ages have continued to improve trails in Sharpe Park. They have rebuilt time-worn rock stairs, covered tree roots with rocks and soil, built rock walls to widen narrow tread and spread gravel on almost a mile of trail.

Before and after of an eroded trail with crews alongside the trail.
Before (left) and after of trail work at Sharpe Park. Photos by Barbara Budd and Karen Bean.

Rick Machin, park steward and WTA volunteer, participated in many of those work parties, including that first one.

“My wife, Meredith, and I have been enjoying this park for 20 years,” Rick said. “At first, I was grateful for even rudimentary trails that could get us and others to magnificent viewpoints. As we’ve aged (we're now in our 70s), we’ve seen more and more park users who are not there for strenuous exercise, but who want to walk for an hour or two in a quiet, beautiful place. The park is a treasure on Fidalgo Island, and WTA has played a huge part in making it a place that welcomes a wide range of users.”

WTA’s Trails Rebooted campaign focuses on improving trails in popular recreation areas — such as Sharpe Park — to help ensure a resilient trail system to meet the needs of Washington’s growing hiking community.

After completing improvements on the Sares Head Trail, WTA began a project to upgrade a loop hike that includes the Porpoise Point and Madrone trails, which have similar challenges to what hikers used to face on the Sares Head Trail. Not only does this work make it possible for more hikers to safely make the trek through majestic cedars and madrones to beautiful views, it helps reduce the annual maintenance necessary to keep the trails in good shape.

Thanks to member support, WTA has been able to work at this location for several years. Many volunteers have returned time after time to help in a park they’ve come to love. And the long-term focus has allowed for continued maintenance and improvement over time. The result? An excellent example of Trails Rebooted.