Volunteers proving crucial to trail building project at Evans Creek Preserve

July 5, 2014

By Neil Pierson

New: July 5, 3:45 p.m.

Evans Creek Preserve is one of Sammamish’s newest parks, and it’s quickly becoming one of the best thanks to diligent efforts from a large volunteer force.
A group of 10 people – including seven community members and representatives from the city and the Washington Trails Association – joined together June 19 for a trail-building outing at the preserve, which encompasses more than 200 acres just outside the northern city limits.
Kellye Hilde, the city’s parks project manager, has been working on the preserve since 2009 when it was still in the planning stages. Since then, she has witnessed a surge of volunteerism that’s responsible for the vast majority of the park’s 2.5-mile trail system.
“Getting volunteers has never been hard for us,” Hilde said. “We’re really lucky. That’s not the case elsewhere.”
The park’s first construction phase, completed in September 2011, was accomplished with more than 10,000 volunteer man hours. Phase two, which began in early 2013, has received nearly 3,000 hours, including the most recent work parties in April and May, Hilde said.
Cliff and Pauline Cantor, of the trails association, led the June 19 volunteer event. Just getting started required some sweat: a one-mile hike starting at the preserve’s northern trailhead near state Route 202, uphill to an unfinished section of trail near Sahalee Way.
Sammamish recently obtained the Sahalee overlook, a 26-acre chunk of land inside the city limits, across Sahalee Way from the Sahalee neighborhood. There, a contractor is in the midst of refurbishing a 15-stall parking lot and concrete curbs, and adding an informational kiosk, signs and gates.
Mike Owens, a recently-retired crew leader for WTA, led trail construction efforts for the first two years at Evans Creek Preserve. The Cantors have taken over, and noted that volunteers are coming from across the Puget Sound region and, occasionally, from outside the state, to help finish the trail work.
“When Kellye said this is a community project, it’s a big community,” Cliff Cantor said. “The effort that it took to build this was not put in solely by city of Sammamish volunteers. It was put in by people from all over who just love to do this kind of work.”
As the work crew marched toward its destination, Cantor explained some of the history behind proper trail-building techniques.
A good trail is at least 30 inches wide whenever possible, and has a 5 percent slope toward the outside. Those standards were established more than 2,000 years ago by the Carthaginian army, under the command of Hannibal, during the Second Punic War.
Cantor said that during their march over the Alps, the soldiers needed to construct trails that could handle the wear and tear of tens of thousands of men, and elephants carrying supplies. If the paths didn’t slope enough, they got too muddy and slippery. If the slope was too great, the elephants fell over.
“Water is the first thing to destroy a trail, among anything else, so you always want to make sure you have good drainage,” Hilde said.
Previous volunteer efforts at Evans Creek have cut a rough trail to the Sahalee outlook. Today’s crew is tasked with widening and proper sloping of a 100-foot section. They’ve brought shovels, grub hoes and Pulaski axes to strip away soil, rocks and shrubs.
“There’s probably about 300 linear feet of trail that still needs to be finished, and we’ll see where we get today, but it’s a good project,” Hilde said. “It’s an entry-level trail-building project, and we’re so close. We’re about 90 percent done with the system.”
Experienced trail stewards, along with some first-timers, filled out the group of volunteers. Cindy Sloat, a 24-year Sammamish resident, got an email from the city that piqued her interest, and she chose to help out even without knowing what to expect.
“We do walk the trails all the time – not this particular one, but we’ve seen everything that’s going on up at Soaring Eagle (east of the city) and have appreciated what’s been done up there,” Sloat said. “I thought this would be a neat opportunity to get involved.”
Laurie Suhy’s husband is a trail steward, although work commitments kept him from volunteering on this day. So she brought her teenaged children, Matt and Sarah, instead.
“They were a little annoyed – it is the first day of summer (vacation),” she said with a chuckle.
The teens put on brave faces as they hacked away at the side of the hill and shoveled dirt out of the way.
“I just like always being out helping in the community,” Matt Suhy said. “It’s a new experience every time.”

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