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Volunteer sweat blazes more trails

Mike Riley, right, of the Island County Trails Council helps cut a new trail at Fort Ebey State Park with another volunteer. A trail-cutting machine borrowed from the Pacific Northwest Trails Association made the task easier, as did an assist by Boy Scouts from Woodinville, who were camping on Whidbey.  - Nathan Whalen
Mike Riley, right, of the Island County Trails Council helps cut a new trail at Fort Ebey State Park with another volunteer. A trail-cutting machine borrowed from the Pacific Northwest Trails Association made the task easier, as did an assist by Boy Scouts from Woodinville, who were camping on Whidbey.
— image credit: Nathan Whalen

Grateful that the rain that was predicted to come didn't, about a dozen people spent a recent morning on the trails in Fort Ebey State Park.

But instead of hiking the trails, they were putting one in with a trail excavator, rakes, and hoes.

The installation, held on March 15, is just one of the duties of the Island County Trails Council. The council helps maintain the miles of trail scattered throughout the county.

The 1-mile path was being installed by volunteer Doug Shepard, who was leading the way in a trail excavator, which looks like a small backhoe with a plow. On the Saturday morning in the woods, he was bulldozing his way around the brush and fallen trees. Other volunteers from the Trails Council and a Boy Scout troop from Woodinville smoothed the new trail.

The Boy Scouts were on the island on a camping trip when the scoutmaster learned of the trail building.

"It sounded like a good thing, and the weather cooperated," said Brent Graham, scoutmaster of Boy Scout Troop 627.

Shepard said the machine, which was borrowed from the Pacific Northwest Trails Association, provided a big boost to the work, saving hours on a project that would have taken most of the day to complete.

The Island County Trails Council uses volunteers to not only install new trails but also maintain and clean current ones. Those volunteers seem to be attracted out of a sense of appreciation.

"I'm just paying these guys back for all the work they've done," said Coupeville resident Gordon Spears, who spent the Saturday smoothing the trail Shepard blazed.

Spears said he spends much of his free time on his mountain bike riding local trails.

The Trails Council has seen declining membership in recent years and efforts are being made to bolster the ranks.

"Anybody that walks, rides or bikes is more than welcome to contact us," said Trails Council volunteer Mike Riley.

He said the greatest need is help in maintaining trails. Volunteers basically walk Island County trails and remove debris that obstructs the path.

To help increase its numbers, the council recently elected new officers.

"We needed some new blood," Shepard said.

Hikers can see the trails council's recent work by venturing down the Cedar Hollow's Trail at Fort Ebey State Park.

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