WTA Helps Build Access to Green Space with New Trail in King County
Over the last year, WTA has been working with King County Parks to plan for the opening of a new forested park in unincorporated North Highline in Seattle. Last month, WTA’s Leadership & Inclusion Crew spent two days at the new park working on trail layout and design. When it's complete, the trail will provide the community access to a green space.
Urban green spaces are critical to the health and well-being of our communities. This has never been more apparent than over the last 13 months as folks have sought joy and comfort in nearby nature. But many Washington residents don’t have easy access to a nearby park or trail. WTA and many of our partners are working to change that through our Trail Next Door campaign.
Over the last year, WTA has been working with King County Parks to plan for the opening of a new forested park in unincorporated North Highline. Situated between highways 99 and 509 in Seattle, this new park is just a 5 minute walk from several community gathering places, including Rainier Prep Middle School, Beverly Park Elementary School and Our Lady of Lourdes Church.
The forest was acquired as a part of King County’s Land Conservation Initiative using Conservation Futures Tax funds. It is one of the first projects to be protected under a new program that doesn't require the communities that don't have access to green space to pay part of the costs to buy the land. The goal is to make it easier to acquire open areas for communities who need them most.
Last month, WTA’s Leadership and Inclusion Crew spent two days at the new park working on trail layout and design with LeeAnne Jensen, WTA’s Puget Sound field manager. The crew was building off of the great design work already done by King County while also using this as a learning opportunity for our crew members.
Taking the time to design a trail well from start to finish goes a long way to ensure the trail is used and loved by local residents for years to come.
“When designing, we end up walking the site multiple times before deciding on the best possible route," LeeAnne said. "We were very grateful to the Dirt Corps Crews and King County Parks folks for making tromping around on site a lot easier by removing invasive blackberry and cutting back the ivy that covered the forest the last time I saw it.”
She also notes the timing of this project worked out perfectly with the end of the Leadership and Inclusion Crew’s season with WTA. “They were able to apply all that they had learned to design a trail that will last for generations. There’s nothing like spending days digging out poor drainage to encourage the initial design to take basic steps to ensure minimal maintenance.”
"I tip my hat all the way to folks who are decisive enough to flag out the routes of new trail!" said Zachary Toliver, one of the crew members. "Not only are you worried about things like the proper grade or avoiding wet, soggy areas, you have to put yourself in the mind of future hikers. Will this be too challenging? Will the scenery appeal to those using the trail? Laying out the paths gave me a whole new appreciation for building sustainable trails.”
"I loved contemplating potential obstacles like roots from surrounding trees or whatever unknown complications awaited underneath our feet. All these thoughts kept me rooted in the present moment with the land. One of my favorite skills picked up from this process was learning what vegetation to look out for to identify soggy parts of the region. Some plants, like skunk cabbage, are pretty obvious. But others took a mindful eye that gave me more insight and appreciation for these natural spaces. Even on this small chunk of trail, I hope future hikers notice the plethora of foliage around them."
There is an immense amount of forethought and process behind building a sustainable trail that is both enjoyable to hike and can stand up to repeated use through the Pacific Northwest’s varying seasons. WTA and King County have also partnered with a class at the University of Washington to conduct a health impact assessment of the new urban park. The students’ work will help our team understand how to maximize the park’s benefits to human health and mitigate unintended consequences of the project.
If you live in the North Highline neighborhood or surrounding area and want to stay up-to-date on the latest happening in this new park, fill out this WTA form. WTA will be hosting two virtual opportunities for the neighborhood and general public to learn more and offer their feedback in May and June. We hope to begin scheduling work parties with community members for trail construction this summer, so stay tuned!