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Trail blazed, brush cleared at Saratoga

South Whidbey neighbors worked side-by-side last weekend to blaze trails and clear brush at Saratoga Woods.

Thirty people participated in what will be the first of many work days planned for the area this fall and next spring.

Last Saturday, volunteers built a new trail, installed an information kiosk with maps in the parking lot on Saratoga Road, and cleared the area around existing buildings of weeds and brush.

They also set boundaries for the 118-acre woods, which became Island County's newest park late this past spring.

"We also posted signs to respect adjacent owners' property rights," said volunteer Phil Pearl.

Elaine Woods -- an active member of Friends of Freeland -- was one of Saturday's volunteers.

"I am here to expand the good neighbor policy," she said. "We (Friends of Freeland) have some similar projects, so we are hoping there will be some public interest in helping with those."

Island County Parks Department Director Lee McFarland was also there to lend a helping hand and the county's tractor.

Jan vanMuyden, a parks department employee, volunteered his time to operate the tractor and spent much of his day clearing Scotch broom and brush away from several old buildings still standing on the property.

Volunteers also cleared out the interior of an old house.

Volunteer Betty Harris of Freeland said there is so much more to be done.

"It is a neverending project here. There will be work for years to come," she said.

Inside the old house, crews pulled out pieces of metal, including an airplane propeller.

Stan Woods, the original owner of the property, was a builder of experimental aircraft. Though the property changed hands a couple of times over the past few years, there is quite a bit of junk left over from Woods' flying days.

"We found cases of old batteries up on top where Woods had a small landing strip," said Langley volunteer Dick Tilkin. "The batteries were used to run the lights to his runway."

To date other projects completed at Saratoga Woods Preserve include the removal of invasive species of plants, the removal and cleanup of various structures, and construction of a 2,000-foot trail linking the Saratoga Woods Preserve to Department of Natural Resources land on Lone Lake Road.

Volunteers are also working to put the finishing touches on the preserve's parking lot.

Though Island County is short on parks money, there may be some funds on the way to do more work.

A grant request to the State Interagency Committee for Outdoor Recreation (IAC) for $138,000 has been submitted to continue with some modest projects.

If awarded, the money will be used for bluff stabilization and safety fencing, a Saratoga Passage overlook with interpretive signage, ADA accessible paths, benches, picnic tables, a picnic shelter, restrooms, drinking fountain and an information kiosk with a map showing the trail system.

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