County, land trust debut new trail at marine park

Part of effort to create island-wide network of trails connecting parks and open spaces on island.

King County has debuted a new trail at Maury Island Marine Park, created in association with the Washington Trail Association (WTA) and Vashon-Maury Island Land Trust.

The trail is part of a larger project that will one day connect the marine park to Gold Beach.

“Within our system of King County Parks, I think this is going to be a real jewel,” said David Kimmett of the Open Space & Natural Lands Program. “The cool thing about this trail is we’re trying to follow the rim of the old gravel mine that was there.”

One goal of the Vashon-Maury Community Service sub-area plan created by the county in 2017, said Kimmett, is to create an island-wide network of trails for pedestrians, bicyclists, and horseback riders that will connect parks and open spaces while providing for access to shoreline areas. It would incorporate views and other features of scenic, historic, or archaeological significance unique to Vashon, he said.

With the first loop of the new trail now open, said Kimmett, the county intends to do just that in keeping with the plan, though he noted that conditions of the terrain at the marine park were particularly challenging to work on.

“I’ve worked on multiple projects and that landscape out there, the shrubs, the brush we have to deal with, those are some of the worst conditions I’ve seen that we have on our park sites on King County property.”

Parks works extensively with WTA through the Community Partnerships and Grants (CPG) Program. According to Kimmett, WTA commits to roughly 125 volunteer events working for Parks annually, but last year was the first time they joined forces at the marine park.

Kimmett said the county would like to complete a number of land acquisitions that would bring their vision of the park to fruition. There are 24 acres of parcels in the vicinity of the new trail which Kimmett said he would like for the county to purchase someday, as they look for opportunities to make connections with property owners who could grant the county easements that would help weave together the trail system over time.

Moreover, Kimmett hopes the spectacular views of Mount Rainier and Puget sound will win over islanders who will, in turn, become long term stewards of miles of trails on the island. He said it happens all the time with WTA volunteers.

“When someone comes out to build a trail for the first time as a volunteer, generally they come back again and again,” he said.

Tom Dean, Executive Director of the Vashon-Maury Island Land Trust, said that he felt creating accessibility at the park was an important cause.

“The big dream is to have a route that goes around Gold Beach to Dockton Forest. That’s the big golden ticket that we’re shooting for,” he said.

For work on the marine park trail, said Dean, the land trust worked with Parks to conceptualize and implement it as well as coordinate the work of WTA volunteers. Together, they laid out the flag lines for the volunteers to see, marking where the trail should be made. The land trust also helped connect prospective volunteers with WTA — those interested in contributing signed up when openings were available to join work parties for creating the new trail, and the land trust spread the word through their channels.

For more information about volunteering for the WTA, visit their website online.

The land trust has made strides of its own connecting trails on Vashon, starting with the Judd Creek loop in 2015 which was followed by Bill’s Trail near Fern Cove a year later.

“We count Frog Holler forest [as well] because there was an existing trail system there we were able to protect and is now open to the public,” said Dean. That acquisition of more than 60 acres, maintained by island equestrian Marie Bradley, was completed in 2016.

Zachary McBride, Puget Sound Regional Manager for WTA, said people forget some of the most outstanding parks in the county are administered by King County Parks.

“Bringing more awareness and people to quality parks that answer the demands of the community enriches our larger trail network in total, and so it helps everyone in the county and beyond,” he said.