We were thrilled to partner with REI Co-op Tuesday on a trail-building stewardship project, and together constructed the first official trail within the new Towns to Teanaway trail system. More than 300 REI executives and employees from across the country built more than 2 miles of the “Ewok” trail in a key access point for the trail system above the town of Roslyn.
“REI Co-op reached out to me at the perfect time” said Darcy Batura, Forest Partnerships Manager for The Nature Conservancy. “With REI’s help, we can really build momentum by developing the main multi-use route connecting Roslyn to the top of Cle Elum Ridge. The existing routes are steep and badly eroded. This new route was carefully designed to work with the landscape to provide a more sustainable and durable route up the ridge.”
Coordinating an event for 300 volunteers was no small task. The Conservancy reached out to partners at the Mountains to Sound Greenway and Washington Trails Association, adding trail-building expertise and event coordination and leadership. According to Batura, “Their partnership has been critical to the project’s success and has developed a project template for completing the rest of the Towns to Teanaway project.”
“We were so excited to help facilitate the public process that shaped the trail system’s design, and to work with such amazing partners to pull off this event,” said Nicky Pasi, the Greenway’s Upper Yakima coordinator. “By combining the Greenway and WTA’s trail and event expertise, TNC’s vision for the land, and REI’s passion for the work, we were able to break ground on Towns to Teanaway in unprecedented style.”
Volunteers joined Washington Trails Association expert crew leaders to take the brand-new Ewok trail from roughed-in to finished by working on the trail tread, creating drainage and brushing. They also rehabilitated adjacent sections of trail that needed drainage work and brushing.
More on the Towns to Teanaway Corridor
The Towns to Teanaway Corridor master plan will feature a stacked-loop trail system from Ronald to Roslyn and Cle Elum with trailheads and signed routes originating in each community. Leadership from the Kittitas County Parks and Recreation District No. 1 and strong input from the community led to a final design that includes trails on Nature Conservancy-managed land and other private land spanning the Cle Elum Ridge above Ronald, Roslyn and Cle Elum.
Cle Elum Ridge is a beautiful, forested landscape sloping down to the Cle Elum and Yakima rivers. As far back as anyone can remember, the ridge has been used by the community as a recreational asset.
The ridge is not only used by people, it is also an important habitat corridor for a variety of wildlife including elk, deer, coyotes, wolves, raptors (including bald eagles), as well as numerous small mammals and songbirds. For decades, recreation and resource extraction (mining and logging) co-existed relatively well.
Eventually, the mines closed and the large logging companies left the area. Land on the Cle Elum Ridge and in the Teanaway Valley were put on up for sale for residential development. The community encouraged local leadership to utilize tools such as mitigation or purchasing, as necessary, to offset the possibility for negative impact development on the public’s ability to access outdoor recreation areas. Through multiple community visioning sessions, citizens noted that opportunities for and access to outdoor recreation are the foundation of life as well as economic drivers in Upper Kittitas County.
In 2014, TNC partnered with others to acquire this land in order to pause the threat of development. “The land is not permanently protected, yet” Said Batura, “but we’re working on it. And maintaining the conservation and recreation values remain our top priority. Our goal is to identify some mix of public and perhaps private ownership in a pattern that makes sense for community, economic, and conservation values. The Central Cascades Forest LLC, through TNC, is presently pursuing transfers to public agencies, sales to conservation buyers and other creative solutions like a community forest model to ensure its permanent protected status.”
As the land managers, TNC is working to conserve and restore its wildlife habitats and to provide access for the public’s enjoyment. That is why we are proud to be part of the “Towns to Teanaway Corridor” connecting the communities to the Teanaway Community Forest. Existing trails have been developed unofficially over years of use. Many are rutted by motorcycle and off-road vehicle use, some trespass across private property and need to be re-routed, and others are steep, fall line trails, which can cause erosion nightmares.
The project now offers a unique opportunity to enhance trails and build new ones throughout the project area for hiking, mountain biking, equestrian riding, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling.
As the full Towns to Teanaway Corridor project is completed, it will provide economic benefits for the local community. Already, Jeff Newman of Tamarack Trail Builders, a new small business based in Roslyn, has a lot of work cut out for him supporting the project.
The project will also improve public health and fitness, build community connections, protect important wildlife corridors and generally improve the quality of life in Roslyn, Cle Elum, Ronald and for visitors to those communities.