This past month I took advantage of loosening COVID restrictions and scheduled my first in-person meetings and site visits in over a year. On the road for two weeks, I experienced a wealth of project site visits, reconnected with chapter members and volunteers, and attended complex, yet rewarding advocacy meetings.
While the work we are doing across the state is challenging and diverse, I am continually blown away by what our small group of enthusiastic athletes achieves when we come together.
My trip started in Darrington where I met Mayor Dan Rankin for a discussion about the road conditions leading up to North mountain. Overall, North Mountain continues to be a great success and will host its first enduro race later this month. There is work to do to keep the shuttle road in good condition. While not typically our role, funding from the Great American Outdoors Act and collaboration with the Darrington Collaborative may prompt us to take action to improve access, stay tuned!
Next up, I visited Ellensburg and embarked on a site tour of the Naneum with Senator Warnick and Representative Dent. Unfortunately, Senator Warnick and Representative Dent have received neighbor complaints about the increased traffic in the area as a result of the trail network. As the Naneum Ridge Trails are being built out, Ellensburg residents are starting to explore their new community resource, causing changes to normal traffic patterns on the access roads to the canyon. Because of that, we are discussing a different way of accessing the site with DNR, in the hopes of mitigating traffic. In the meantime, with respect for our neighbors, we ask that those riding in the area please be mindful. The current access road is an easement that we are fortunate to use. It is important for our community to show our gratitude as we use it. Simply keeping your speed down, and offering a smile and a wave can make a big difference!
As our group headed up to the parking area where a new restroom was just installed by the DNR crew, Senator Warnick and I happily made use of the clean and awesome toilet! Once on-site, we dove into the meat of the day; an e-bike tour. On one hand, Representative Dent sponsored the recent legislation ESSB 5254, and he was eager to try out the e-bike for himself. On the other, Senator Warnick is an avid equestrian and curious about the technology and its impact to equestrian users on trails. She took time to address the concerns she's been getting from her equestrian constituents. Both parties were impressed by the bikes and surprised by their lack of noise and ease of riding.
After the trip, we received a wonderful note from Senator Warnick, highlighting the importance of these advocacy trips. Meetings like this are invaluable in our mission to educate our community members and lawmakers about changes in the recreation economy, and how we as advocacy organizations can best deal with them.
Onwards to Spokane where I met with chapter representatives and took a site tour of Mount Spokane. Having never ridden there before this was a special treat, and I'm very appreciative of the time that Chapter President Chris Conley, and Vice President Melinda Larson took to discuss their projects and needs with me.
Opportunities in the East Chapter are fantastic; including a new trail network at the next tour stop: a newly formed Community Forest in the town of Chewelah. The Chewelah Land Trust recently acquired 400 acres with an existing road and trail network that's been loved by the community for decades. Former forestry land, these 400 acres are now protected as a Community Forest, funded in part by the Recreation and Conservation Office. We are excited to design a mountain bike trail network with some hiking resources as well. The design work is underway and we'll share updates as things progress!
Kettle Fest was next, and boy was it a treat! I got to enjoy two long rides at Jungle Hill and Sherman Pass, and as always enjoyed the camaraderie and the trail maintenance work of the gathering.
The majority of my time in this region was spent in wilderness discussions, where I participated in meetings with the forest service, local leaders in recreation, advocacy, and the tribes. Our discussions were complex, rewarding, and introduced me to some fantastic contacts. I had the opportunity to meet with the great Bobby Whittaker, who delivered the Ferry County Rail Trail, as well as Shelley Boyd of the Colville. We talked about cultural designations in the forests and opportunities for permanent protection. We also talked about how all of the stakeholders within the forest slowly but surely could be getting on the same page when it comes to the forest management plan revision implementation. The discussion went on for hours and we touched on a number of major issues that need resolution. We all agreed that we would love to see more references to people who have been on the land since time immemorial, and find a way to permanently protect and take care of this amazing landscape. The Kettle Crest area and greater Colville NF have some of the last places to ride old-school, high elevation, sub-alpine trails in the State.
In the Methow Valley just a few days later I attended the chapter board meeting, where we addressed several new projects, including an exciting new trail work proposal for Virginia ridge! Our enthusiasm was dampened by falling ash during the two days that I was there, which forced me to abandon my camping plans and move into a hotel due to quickly degrading air quality.
Overall, there was great enthusiasm and momentum in the chapter, lots of work proposals and I am very excited for what we have in store; though overshadowed by our concern for fires near two of our project locations, Virginia Ridge and Thompson Ridge, and the safety of our friends and communities in the Methow Valley. Our thoughts are with them as they continue to face smoke and wildfires.
Number 2 Canyon, TREAD, and Leavenworth Ski Hill!
To wrap up the tour, I had a remarkable visit to Wenatchee at Number 2 Canyon, as well as a celebration of the completion of our Ski Hill master plan! I also spent an entire day working with Mat Lyons, Executive Director of TREAD and former Central Chapter President - to talk recreation plans, maps, and advocacy. A team of US Forest service, county staff and local builders attended a tour of Number 2 Canyon to identify ongoing investments in infrastructure and road access, and confirm funding and plans to get these pieces of the recreation plan completed in the next few years.
The trip ended with a celebration of the Ski Hill trail network and a farewell event for District Ranger Jeff Rivera. All in all a rewarding 2 weeks on the road to celebrate our work and plan for what's next in the northern half of the state.. South is next!
That's a Wrap!
Overall, I am extremely grateful for the times shared, and the connections made on this whirlwind project and advocacy adventure. After a year of slowdown and uncertainty, this tour was a long-awaited opportunity to reconnect and celebrate with fellow Evergreen staff, members, and volunteers.
Throughout Covid, Evergreen, like many, has had many worries about our survivability; but I'm happy to report that we are stronger than ever! While punches keep coming our way, your support allows us to keep making things happen!