Members of the island community can get ready to put on their walking shoes — the new Land Trust trail with complete ADA access officially opened on Sunday, Nov. 17.
David Kimmett, King County Natural Lands Program Manager, and Christie True, the director of King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks, were two of the officials present at the ribbon-cutting on Nov. 17 behind Vashon Community Care to open the flat, easily-accessible trail that connects to the existing Shinglemill trail.
“The Land Trust does a phenomenal job with lots of projects in the forests, along the shorelines and on farms,” True said to the crowd that had gathered at VCC. “It is really mighty what has been accomplished and we have much more to do.”
Anne Atwell, director of development at VCC, expressed her gratitude to the Land Trust team — King County and Frank Zellerhoff, the contractor who completed the work of the trail behind the center.
“Getting outdoors helps people remain young,” Atwell said to the crowd.
True went on to explain that King County, in partnership with the Land Trust, will identify further parcels for future preservation on the island. King County hopes to do much more preservation and trail connection work across Vashon-Maury Islands, she said. True also noted that the projects that are most likely to get funding are the ones that have strong community partnerships, such as the ones the county has with the Land Trust and VCC.
There are different types of grants that King County funds. The King County Conservation Futures program allows land trusts and local governments to apply for money to help purchase properties. This grant helped secure the 45 acres in 2007 that the Shinglemill trail system is a part of today.
Another source of funding from the county, called Community Partnerships and Grants, assists on the programming side for property after the land has been acquired. This source funds the actual trail build-outs and connections.
Patience is a virtue when building out trail connections, True explained. Waiting for parcels and finding willing sellers in order to buy land for connections can take a long time.
“Trail connections are the hardest thing to do because there are multiple parcels to work with,” True said.
Both Abel Eckhardt, a land steward, and Tom Dean, executive director of the Land Trust, have been active with the nonprofit for many years. They both have participated in a long list of land preservation projects, including Shinglemill, Judd Creek loop and Christensen Pond, to name a few. They continue to work on upcoming projects like Kneeshaw trail in Paradise Valley, which is not yet open.
In her comments at the ribbon-cutting to islanders on Sunday, True noted some evidence-based research which found a person’s well-being improves with access to outdoor green spaces.
Eunice Milligan, a resident at VCC, agrees.
“It’s pretty wonderful to have this beauty in our backyard,” said Milligan, who is wheelchair-bound. “I just have to check my brakes.”
Access from behind VCC will be reserved for residents and guests of VCC only, with general public access at the Shinglemill trailhead on SW 156th Street. Bicycles are not permitted and dog owners must keep their pets leashed.