Stewardship is a Year-Round Calling for Members of the Olympia Branch

Learn about what the Olympia Stewardship Committee has been up to this winter, and how you can help them identify trail hazards and potential projects.
Dee Ann Kline Dee Ann Kline
Olympia Branch Super Volunteer
February 26, 2022

Stewardship is a key component of maintaining the health and vitality of our trail systems. The Olympia Branch is known for its robust stewardship program, supporting trail work across the lower Puget Sound region and into the peninsula. However, the work isn't just completed in the sunnier months - winter is a busy time for these volunteers as well. Learn about what the Olympia Conservation Committee has been up to this season, and how you can help. 

Overlook trail main mess Ginger Sarver.jpgDebris over the trail at Woodard Bay. Photo by Ginger Sarver.

Winter trail work

Many of the trails where the Olympia Branch members volunteer in the summer are covered with snow in the winter.  as a result, our winter stewardship projects focus on lowland parks and trails closer to South Puget Sound neighborhoods. The winter weather usually hits the lowland forests hard at least once a year. This year the damage is particularly severe.  Trees are uprooted, large upper branches are snapped off, and dead snags have fallen across trails, leaving debris scattered over the trails. Usually a tree, branch, or snag over the trail is a just nuisance to hikers, but there are times when they become a safety hazard.

There are advantages to volunteering to work on these nearby lowland trails in the winter.  A trip can be quickly scheduled, there is less travel, and members who are new to stewardship learn new skills while working alongside seasoned crew members. 

The Olympia Mountaineers Stewardship Committee takes pride in helping volunteers learn new skills.  One trail skill that has been very popular is the use of the crosscut saw. Many volunteers can attest that clearing a large tree using the crosscut saw is a rewarding accomplishment.

This winter Olympia Mountaineers volunteered on trails in Tolmie State Park and Woodard Bay Natural Conservation area. They made five trips to Woodard Bay, where they removed downed trees, cleared the paths of trees and debris, and used crosscut saws and related tools to clear fallen trees.

20220121_11 Woodard Bay crew no credit.jpgClearing a fallen tree at Woodard Bay. 

At Tolmie State Park, they used crosscut saw and related tools to remove a tree that had fallen across a board walk and then repaired the damaged boardwalk.

Kathy's photo of Boardwalk Crew.jpgRebuilding the Boardwalk at Tolmie State Park. Photo by Kathy Fox.

But it is not only trails that need attention in the winter. Winter can be the ideal time for planting and nurturing native vegetation in critical and sensitive areas. Olympia Mountaineers often partner with conservation organizations, local parks, and land trusts for restoration work over the winter months.  This winter, members of the Stewardship Committee have volunteered for local projects with Olympia Parks, WTA, Capital Land Trust, Nisqually Land Trust, Center for Natural Land Management, Stream Team, Native Plant Salvage, Puget Sound Enhancement Group and Trash MashTrash Mash is a litter posse in Mason County that meets twice a month and picks trash on Mason County trails.

Everyone can participate

A stewardship project often starts when the Stewardship Committee gets a report from Olympia Branch members of trail damage, trees on the trail, or other obstacles to safe hiking. The Stewardship Committee coordinates with public land managers to schedule service projects in a timely manner.  Members are encouraged to report the location and description of a trail problem to the Stewardship Committee co-chairs Jim French or Jennifer Fortin, or the appropriate land manager.  Adding a photo helps the Stewardship Committee and land manager evaluate the severity of the problem.

As Jim French, co-chair of the Olympia Mountaineers Stewardship Committee, reminds us, "Folks in the Olympia Branch believe hikers are fortunate to have both a great trail system within easy access of the South Puget Sound, and a great trail maintenance network led by the WTA and other trail organizations. Because the trails of the Pacific Northwest are among the most prized in America's hiking and climbing world, we like to remind folks that stewardship of our public lands is not just for the WTA or other fulltime trail maintenance crews.  Everyone's help is needed."


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Jennifer Fortin
Jennifer Fortin says:
Feb 21, 2022 07:35 PM

What a great article on our Stewardship efforts, Dee Ann! Thanks so much for highlighting our work on the trails. We really do enjoy doing it.