Fleet of foot…Traversing the ACT

ACT benefactor Laura Nishitani cuts the ribbon at the grand opening of the American Camp Trail in Friday Harbor.   - Journal photo / Scott Rasmussen
ACT benefactor Laura Nishitani cuts the ribbon at the grand opening of the American Camp Trail in Friday Harbor.
— image credit: Journal photo / Scott Rasmussen

By Scott Rasmussen, Journal editor

It may not fit the definition in the classic sense of the word.

But the American Camp Trail, part gravel, part grass, part paved road, is open for business just the same.

“Any day you get to walk outdoors is a good day,” David Zeretske of the San Juan Island Trails Committee said at the ACT’s June 1 ribbon-cutting ceremony and grand opening. “And any day you can do that without having to drive a car is an even better day.”

Fittingly, the trail’s grand opening coincided with National Trails Day.

Walking groupMore than a decade in the making, the American Camp Trail links the town of Friday Harbor to the south end of San Juan Island by way of a series of interconnected pathways, road-shoulder segments, private-property easements and more than a few trails that even the most purist of hiker would have to dub as authentic.

It spans roughly six miles from end to end, beginning on Friday Harbor Airport property near the Office Center, across Spring Street from Hartman Field, and emerging beside San Juan Island National Historical Park’s visitor’s center at American Camp, or visa versa.  It’s about a two-hour trek to traverse the length of the ACT on foot, as several hearty souls can attest to after traveling its entirety on the heels of the opening ceremony. And though free now of any dead ends or roadblocks, the trail remains a work in progress, Zeretske said.

“There’s about six or seven sections without easements, and some of that road frontage is pretty substantial,” he said, notably along Cattle Point Road. “If we had those we’d be entirely off-road.”

In the meantime, visitors and islanders alike can take a leisurely stroll from Friday Harbor to American Camp simply by placing one foot in front of the other, or simply saunter along a section of the trail and feel the ground beneath their feet. Which is what Alice Hurd, one of the many property owners who has donated a trail easement, typically likes to do.

“I love the idea of getting from Point A to Point B on the island without getting in the car,” Hurd said. “From my house I can walk to American Camp or to Friday Harbor. We had some property along the road that’s not developed and an easement just seemed like a good idea.”

VolunteersThe ACT stands as a testament to the power of the public-private partnership. It would not exist without the numerous easements donated by land owners, including the 25 homeowners who share the Fairway Drive neighborhood’s private road. It piggy-backs on trails established by the Port of Friday Harbor, the Land Bank and the National Parks Service, and skirts along the shoulders of several sections of road managed and maintained by the San Juan County Department of Public Works.

The trail would also not exist without the vision, tenacity and manual labor of members of the San Juan Island Trails Committee, which operates under the flag of San Juan Island’s Park and Recreation District, Island Rec. All those agencies, entities and individuals played an important part in bringing what a decade ago was only an idea into reality, longtime Island Rec Commissioner Bill Cumming said.

“There was an unbelievable amount of time spent around a table drawing maps, planning ahead, figuring out all the details,” Cumming said. “And this is the payoff. It’s a visible tribute to all that hard work, and more importantly our citizens now have a trail to walk on.”

For more about SJI Trails Committee, and island trails, visit,


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