Land trust opens new Shinglemill trail

The Vashon-Maury Island Land Trust has completed the construction of a new trail, a topographically diverse two-mile trek that extends from behind the Vashon Community Care Center and along Shinglemill Creek to the stream’s terminus at Fern Cove.

The trail traverses property owned by the land trust as well as three private parcels whose owners granted the organization easements for the public path. It was built with funds from the land trust and King County, with support from a Boy Scout troop, a Student Conservation Association crew and other volunteers, said Tom Dean, who heads the land trust.

The trail, he said, is far more dramatic than most on Vashon, since it begins along the crest of a ravine, descends into it and then climbs back up — an undulating course that takes walkers over the small but perennial Needle Creek and past its confluence with Shinglemill, the Island’s second-largest stream.

“It puts you in a ravine in a way that you just don’t experience anywhere else on Vashon,” he said. “This is completely different from any other trail on Vashon.”

Jim Evans, a land trust volunteer who has spent hours documenting the condition of the corridor, agreed.

“It’s a beautiful, varied, diverse landscape, and you can feel like you’re far away when you’re in there,” he said.

The construction of the trail was more complex than some the land trust has taken on. It entailed a bridge, steps carved into hillsides and serious efforts at erosion control. The land trust also planted some 5,000 conifers along the expanse, part of an effort to control erosion along the steep-banked Needle Creek.

All told, the effort — from planning to execution — took about two years, Dean said.

“It’s definitely our most ambitious trail project yet,” Dean said.

The trailhead is on 156th Ave. S.W., on the west side of Vashon Highway — just across the road from Vashon Winery. The street is a quiet, dead-end stretch, and parking is limited. Currently, there is space for two cars at the trailhead.

“We’re hoping that will meet demand,” Dean said.

Evans, who has spent a lot of time on the trail and in the adjacent forestland, said it’s an interesting expanse — mostly second- and third-growth but “with some remnant big trees.”

Shinglemill is particularly interesting, Dean and Evans said. Just recently, Dean said, a coho salmon was spotted in the creek, and according to Evans, it also harbors cutthroat trout. Vashon birding expert Ed Swan, Evans added, has listed Shinglemill as the only Vashon site where American dippers have been found; about 60 bird species, he added, use the mixed forest and riparian habitat type the stretch comprises.

“It’s a rich habitat for fish, birds and other wildlife,” Evans said.

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