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Rapid Response: WTA Crews Clear Popular Trails at Cougar Mountain

Posted by Anna Roth at Apr 15, 2019 06:34 PM |

Winter storms took a toll on trails in Issaquah. WTA crews took a toll on the trees that came down in the winds.

Though WTA runs work parties across the state, we're still helping Puget Sound land managers play catch-up from February, when snow and ice forced us to cancel 16 work parties. Trip reporters were beginning to notice, particularly in King County Parks, and specifically Cougar Mountain Regional Park, where we usually work in the winter. 

Cougar Mountain covers more than 3,000 acres, so King County Parks relies on park users to provide feedback about where work needs to happen. Trip reports between February and March mention lots of trees down on popular trails like Shangri-La and the Shy Bear trail. But by the time the snows cleared, WTA's staff crew leaders had other obligations to fulfill, and the season was beginning for other projects.

cougar mountain tree down_adam levermore.jpeg
Trip reporters like Adam Levermore and his wife were ready to hike, but winter storms brought trees down that were kind of a drag for hikers to navigate. Photo by Adam Levermore. 

Luckily WTA has a deep bench of blue hats, including Emily Snyder, a volunteer crew leader and B-level crosscut sawyer (meaning she's experienced with a saw and certified to lead crews). A hard-working and keyed-in member of WTA's trail maintenance community, Emily also frequently runs at Cougar Mountain, so she's deeply familiar with the terrain. She leapt at the chance to run three "Rapid Response" logout work parties at Cougar Mountain. These fast-moving work parties' main goal is to deal quickly and effectively with maintenance issues in popular areas that didn't get the attention they deserved this winter.

But an added bonus is saw practice—these work parties allowed folks who are hoping to get certified in crosscut sawing the opportunity to practice their skills and learn how to safely and effectively remove these obstacles from trails, so hikers, bikers, and horses can enjoy them.

Emily (left) wears a blue hat to identify her as the crew leader. She and Liz (right) an assistant volunteer crew leader pause during a cut on the Surprise Trail. Photo courtesy Emily Snyder

In three days, Emily's crews covered a huge amount of ground; one day they did four miles, and the day I joined the work party we did five. One of our crew members even filed a trip report detailing the day's work. This spring, Emily and her crews modeled just how effectively we can help our partners clear the way for hikers by empowering experienced volunteers to take care of trails and passing down critical trail skills.

"During the recent winter storms Cougar Mountain Park was ravaged, leaving our staff with more work than they could handle," said Brian Lund, of King County Parks. "When trails are blocked, people walk off trail, causing trail widening and erosion, which in turn degrades the ecosystem. Thank you very much Emily and WTA for helping KCP be good stewards of our land!"

Want to be a good steward of parks and trails near you? Find a volunteer opportunity in your backyard or file a trip report! We won't know where to work without conditions reports from hikers like you.