Young Volunteers Tackle Big Project for Year-Round Trails
Thanks to dozens of youth volunteers, hikers will have a better experience on easily accessible, year-round trails at Big Finn Hill Park.
By Micki Kedzierski
Big Finn Hill Park, located between Kenmore and Kirkland, is a 220-acre wooded oasis that includes 9.5 miles of trails. The intersecting, looping trails through the Big Finn Hill Forest also connect to Saint Edward State Park to the northwest and to Kirkland’s O.O. Denny Park to the southwest. These multi-use trails are frequented by hikers, dog walkers and mountain bikers of all ages and abilities.
Heavy use, coupled with typical Western Washington soil and weather conditions, creates many opportunities for trail maintenance and reconstruction. An opportunity arose early this year to address one particularly muddy area. Over the course of 14 work parties, WTA’s youth trail maintenance program partnered with King County Parks to construct a turnpike — a low platform that raises a trail out of the mud — at one intersection. The turnpike project was officially completed in May, but the outcomes were so much bigger than dry feet and good drainage.
These work parties gave everyone an opportunity to reconnect with old friends not seen during the past year of COVID restrictions and to form new connections with people they met on the crew. There was lots of talk and laughter; cyclists, walkers and dogs thanked us as they came by; everyone had fun; and our young volunteers got tons of work done!
Here are the highlights:
- We hosted 14 work parties from February to May.
- About 888 hours of work were contributed by 103 participants, including 64 youth and 27 adult volunteers, four members of the WTA Leadership and Inclusion Crew, two crew leaders (Kaci Darsow and Micki Kedzierski) and six assistant crew leaders (Pete Dewell, Darrel Dochow, Jen Dotrong, Charlie Lieu, Britt Lê and George Stites).
- Youth crews came from WTA’s Youth Ambassador Program, scout troops, youth and family work parties, The Mountaineers youth programs and The Evergreen School’s eighth grade class trip.
- We completed eight sections of turnpike that measured a total of 88 feet long and 72 inches wide, added about 25 feet of additional rock and gravel fill, and widened roughly 100 feet of tread to 72 inches.
- We hauled literally TONS of rocks and gravel in buckets and with the occasional wheelbarrow.
Problem-solving and learning skills
At the start of each workday, crew leaders talked through the project with the group and gave everyone an opportunity to share ideas, problem-solve, participate in every task, learn to use new tools and develop techniques. Crew members of every age used math skills to determine angles to miter corners for wooden turnpike structures, used levels to assure accuracy in the placement of sills and stringers, used bits and braces to bore holes prior to using the gas-powered drill, pounded in rebar and hauled buckets and buckets of rocks and gravel. While widening an intersecting trail, we built rafts out of downed branches and hid them away from trail view. We then piled them with ivy, holly and blackberry clippings to prevent re-rooting of these noxious plants.
Throughout our work together, there were conversations about the past year of remote school and work, missing friends, making new acquaintances, what we learned from the year and what we are looking forward to. This 3-month project felt like a community coming together to work, learn and enjoy the time.
The completed turnpike and newly widened trail access were completed on May 20 and met with approval from Holly, the King County Parks specialist who assisted with the plan and secured the lumber, rocks and gravel necessary for the project. In early June, an email of acknowledgment and appreciation for the generosity of time and spirit involved in this youth and family community project, along with a link to dozens of photos from start to finish, was sent to everyone who participated in the 3-month project.