Volunteers get jump on improving trails

By Ron Newberry

for the Whidbey News-Times

It may be a year before Robert and Sue Payton are able to walk the new trail they recently helped build in Central Whidbey. But as far as Robert is concerned, it will be worth the wait.

The Paytons were among 11 people who came to a patch of woods near Coupeville on March 22 to finish the construction of a quarter-mile section of trail. Many had come earlier in the month to start building the segment, which will be part of the future Walking Ebey’s Trail System.

“We belong to a walking club so we hike all kinds of trails,” Robert Payton said. “We’re excited to get this finished so we can have another walk through here.”

The enthusiasm over the new trail project was infectious, leading to another double-digit turnout of volunteers.

“I like to hike,” Nancy South of Freeland said. “Any new trail on Whidbey is great.”

The Whidbey-Camano Land Trust started planning for a trail system in Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve more than a decade ago. By securing conservation and trail easements from private landowners, the Land Trust now is connecting existing trails in Central Whidbey to create a European-like walking experience to and from Coupeville through surrounding forests, farmlands and parks and along beaches.

“When we heard about it, we were immediately interested because it’s sort of a great interface between the forest and the prairie,” said Ed Aites of Oak Harbor, who was joined by his wife Lorna. “And that’s the type of landscape we’re particularly fond of. We were also kind of thinking it’s a parallel to the walking paths of Britain where there are a lot of public walking areas that go through farmland. And we’ve always enjoyed that idea.”

Trail building started in 2018 near the Land Trust’s Admiralty Inlet Preserve, north of Fort Casey State Park. The first two phases will make it possible to walk from that preserve through the pastoral interior and connect with Rhododendron County Park, which joins with the county’s Kettles Trail along State Highway 20 and leads into Coupeville and north to Fort Ebey State Park.

The trail project plan has five phases. Phases 1 and 2 include more than four miles of trail and are expected to be completed and open for public enjoyment in 2020.

Grant funding for this project is from Island County Conservation Futures Fund and a National Park Service and Outdoor Foundation grant. The Land Trust needs to secure additional funding to complete the trail system and will be working on this in the months to come.

The Whidbey Camano Land Trust is a nonprofit nature conservation organization that actively involves the community in protecting, restoring and appreciating the important natural habitats and resource lands that support the diversity of life on our islands and in the waters of Puget Sound.

For information, including volunteer opportunities, visit http://www.wclt.org/, email info@wclt.org, or call 360-222-3310.