San Juan Island Trails Committee minutes

Contributed photo/San Juan Island Trails Committee

Submitted by the San Juan Island Trails Committee

The following are the minutes of the San Juan Island Trails Committee meeting on June 6.

Doug McCutchen from the Land Bank reported that the management plan for Mount Grant is under development and the public review will take place in the fall. They have been working on trail alignments and are open to input. The Land Bank will also be opening the Mount Ben Preserve (the south shoulder of Mt. Dallas) for public comment starting Friday, June 9, and continuing through Friday, July 7. There will be a public meeting about Mt. Ben on Thursday, June 29, at 5:30 pm at the Mullis Center. The Land Bank appreciates input and participation, especially written comments. The Preservation Trust owns an adjacent parcel and there is a proposed trail through both properties.

Theresa Simendinger pointed out that our July meeting will fall on the 4th, and the group agreed to cancel it. Our next meeting will be on Aug. 1. Louise Dustrude said this room will not be available for our Nov. 7 meeting, and Theresa said she would look for an alternate location.

Tim Dustrude said that he gave his Walkable San Juans presentation at the May 24 public Port Commission meeting with two of the Port Commissioners present, Greg Hertel and Mike Ahrenius. (Barbara Marrett, the third Commissioner, said she had seen it in another venue). Tim said it was well received and that they endorsed our statement.

Boyd Pratt reported that Laurie O’Donnell gave a Know Your Islanders Talk at the library last night with wonderful pictures of Africa. There will be no Talk in July because it would fall on July 3. On August 7, Joe Niichel will talk about walking the Pacific Coast Trail. None in September because of Labor Day. And on October 2nd Theresa Simendinger will talk about visiting Peru and the Amazon.

Bill Severson reported on two Know Your Island Walks where he would appreciate Trails Committee help: On July 22 Mike Buettell will lead a Walk on the Roche Harbor trails, and on August 26 Tim Dustrude will lead one on neighborhood pathways in the town of Friday Harbor, and in both instances Bill would like someone from the committee to join them. In addition, this month’s Walk on June 24 will be at the Friday Harbor Laboratories (it’s a preserve, so no dogs are allowed). If you can help, please contact Bill at or 370-5915.

County Engineer Colin Huntemer spoke about his shared interest (with the committee) in trails alongside the public roads. He has lived here for 10 years now and has kids. He thinks getting places without a car would be a fantastic opportunity for the public. He explained that Public Works acts as a “construction company” for the county, and so far that has mostly meant roads for vehicles and marine access. He said when money is tight trails are a temptingly easy project to drop.

Colin said that at the last meeting of this group he was asked how we could have a dedicated source of funding for roadside trails or wide shoulders. He said it’s necessary to challenge the narrative that the only way to preserve our rural character is to have narrow, winding roads.

He said the county road fund could pay for trails in the right-of-way and he showed pictures of some trails that have been built (all on Lopez or Orcas except for the Minnie Mae Trail on San Juan).

He said Public Works currently has a levy of 77 cents per thousand, one of the lowest in the state (the state average is about $1.50). Raising it to $1 would require a simple majority of voters and would raise about $1.3 million per year. A roadside trail from Friday Harbor to Zylstra Lake, as an example, about 2-1/2 miles, would cost about $1 million. So one possibility would be to vote for such a levy and add trails on San Juan, Orcas, and Lopez in rotation, one each year.

He said the avenue for us if we are interested in this would be to talk with the members of the county council. He added, “This is as much as I will talk about it unless the county council asks me to,” and added, “If I get county council direction to work on this, I will.”

Dave Zeretzke asked how much the question of safety affects such decisions, and Colin responded that there are figures about the number of accidents at a given location — but there are no figures about the number of people who don’t walk or ride a bike on a road because they feel unsafe. He said that’s a non-traditional way to look at safety.

Dave Zeretzke reported there will be a family bike ride on Saturday, June 24, on Shaw Island to the County Park (and farther for those who wish) — leaving San Juan at 11:35 am and returning at 5:10, sponsored by Island Rec.

Tim Dustrude said there will be a webinar called “Getting to Yes” by the American Trails Association on Thursday, July 20, at 10 am, about approaching people to support or give land for a trail. He said we had voted last fall to join the association, which would mean the webinar would be free, and anyone interested can come to his home to watch. Bill Severson, the treasurer, said if Tim will give him the information he’ll arrange to send in our dues.

Cinda Pierce asked about the condition of the Minnie Mae Trail, and who might be willing to work on it, but there was no answer forthcoming. She said she has the banner, “Trails volunteers at work,” and she will take it to Island Rec for storage.

Theresa Simendinger reported on a very successful Family Nature Club hike to Briggs Lake led by youth leader Ava Martin and her family. Many very young children participated, and a good number of them walked all the way around the lake. The next Family Nature Club event will be Tidepooling on Saturday, July 22, 9:30 – 11:30 led by long-time FH Labs researcher Dr. Ericka Iyengar.

Those present were Chair Theresa Simendinger, Eileen Drath, Louise Dustrude, Tim Dustrude, Colin Huntemer, Kyle Loring, Barbara Marrett, Doug McCutchen, Cinda Pierce, Boyd Pratt, Bill Severson, and Dave Zeretzke. Hours reported worked on trails since last meeting: 41.