Journal of the San Juan Islands


Counterpoint: bridging the divide | Guest Column

March 15, 2013 · Updated 2:50 PM

High school students Robyn Roberts, right, and Julia Bevens take a break for a photo during their junior class community service trail improvement project, at Mitchell Hill, in 2012. / Journal file photo / Contributed

By Barbara Nash Bevens

I attended the National Park Service meeting at the SJI Library on Feb. 13, concerning horse trails on behalf of 4-H Bits ‘n Spurs. There was a preponderance of horse people in attendance, as we fervently wish for more “places to go and things to do.”

From my perspective, the deck was not “stacked.” I heard about the meeting from the WSU Extension Office, 4-H division, not the horse community.

I was amazed at how thoroughly and thoughtfully NPS Superintendent Lee Taylor had prepared her presentation. It was clear that the National Park Service has put much thought into both designating and maintaining trails of all sorts over many years. The protocol was incredibly detailed, the presentation also.

In following Mr. Curley’s article in order, he mentions manure piles and stated that little thought was given to them (“Deck stacked in debate over trail use”, Guest Column, Feb. 27, pg. 7). They were mentioned a minimum of three times, and Superintendent Taylor’s responses were clear and detailed. Taylor stated that invasive species were a potential concern and would be monitored and noted for future trail use. This was standard NPS protocol for (all) National Parks.

Trail width concerning right-of-way was also addressed. Horses are only allowed on trails that fit NPS criteria, which comfortably allow for hiker/biker passing. Standard procedure on any trail has always been to call out “on your right” when one desires to pass. If a family should happen to approach a horse/rider, common courtesy would be to call out. Common sense dictates that one should keep a reasonable distance from any animal, including dogs.

As far as degrading the trails and permanent damage being done while the parks monitor and assess for a year; I would beg to differ. The average trail allowable to horses is already sufficiently wide and well-cleared. The specific trail which upset Mr. Curley to such an extent was (not) one of the proposed trails.

Superintendent Taylor stated that NPS intended to limit the number of permits for horse riders on the trails to just 20. The “draft” papers handed out at the meeting were just that; a draft. Taylor specified that the papers were only a draft and an indicator of what information was to be requested, for those who wanted to see what was expected. She also stated that she had not yet made a final decision on increasing the horse trails.

Tight economic times. This argument is specious, as the trails are maintained predominantly by volunteers. It was the horse community and the Community Projects volunteers from Friday Harbor High School who built a second puncheon bridge for all users last spring. They were supported by the trails committee and the biking community. I was a part of this project and saw the commitment and dedication of all of these groups working together; the sense of community it fostered and the desire and ability of all to work together.

— Editor’s note: Barbara Nash Bevens, a full-time resident of San Juan Island for seven years, worked the previous 27 years on-island with children and volunteers Her husband’s family has been residents and island property owners for more than 55 years.


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