Walking Ebey’s Trails System Will Connect Existing Trails with New
The brochures and information sheets that disappear first from the visitors’ center in Coupeville are always those with maps of walking trails. Volunteers hustle to keep the shelves and display tables stocked.
“Walking trails are very, very popular with people who come here,” said Lynda Eccles, executive director of the Coupeville and Central Whidbey Chamber of Commerce. “And I think that one of the major reasons people visit is to enjoy the freedom and openness of this area of the island. They obviously aren’t coming to see big city lights. They’re coming to see the natural beauty.”
The Land Trust recognized the allure and importance of trail systems in Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve more than a decade ago and started planning ways to link them. That early foresight was followed by steady progress securing conservation and trail easements from private landowners to connect existing trails — a project known as the Walking Ebey’s Trail Corridor.
We’ve just secured a $40,000 grant from Island County’s Conservation Futures Fund to hire a professional trail consultant to work with landowners and develop a construction plan for the pedestrian-only trail. An additional $10,000 was awarded from the same fund to be used next year to construct the first trails.
“We’ve had a vision of establishing trail networks throughout Island County,” said Pat Powell, the Land Trust’s executive director. “Over the past 10 years, we’ve secured the key trail connections to bring the Walking Ebey’s Trail Corridor to the construction phase. One of our objectives is to connect people to the land. This project is a perfect illustration of that.”
The Walking Ebey’s Trail Corridor is designed to connect existing trails by building new connections and, ultimately, provide a contiguous trail corridor from Coupeville through surrounding forests, farmlands, parks and along beaches.
The plan, which involves several phases, will add approximately eight miles of new, minimally developed trails, linking key points of interest within Ebey’s Reserve and providing access to its pastoral interior.
Connections will be made with existing trails at Rhododendron Park, Fort Casey State Park, Central Whidbey beaches, Ebey’s Landing State Park, and the Land Trust’s Admiralty Inlet and Crockett Lake preserves.
The idea is to create a European-like walking experience that will increase recreational opportunities for residents and visitors. Trail users will have a variety of routes through Ebey’s Reserve that can be accessed from multiple starting points.
“A real important part of what makes Island County visitors happy is being able to access public beaches, forests, and trails,” said Sherrye Wyatt, public relations and marketing manager for Whidbey Camano Islands Tourism.
“This has the economic benefit of drawing people to Central Whidbey in the off season,” Powell said. “There’s quite a bit of research showing that places with walking trails close to a town attract tourists.”
If additional construction funds are secured, the Land Trust anticipates the first phase will be up to 3.4 miles in length, with trailhead access and a parking area on Engle Road across from our Admiralty Inlet Preserve. Volunteer trail builders will also be recruited. If all goes well, the first trail phase will open in 2018.
During the past 14 years, the Land Trust has worked with 43 landowners on real-estate transactions protecting 1,500 acres in Ebey’s Reserve, including securing the most critical linkages to make the trail corridor possible. Powell said she anticipates the entire trail network will be completed within three years.
“It will be fabulous,” Eccles said.
She expects a map outlining the trail corridor will fly off the shelves at the chamber office. Currently, visitors take a handful of individual trail maps.
“I was very excited to hear that there’s going to be something that links everything,” Eccles said.