It’s not every day that a mile and a half of already-built trails fall into the public domain.
Alice and Dave Shorett have hiked local trails for years and years, wrote the book on them actually, and they can’t recall an instance.
“I don’t know that there’s ever been a more significant gift,” says Dave Shorett, co-author with his wife of the definitive “Thirty Walks on Bainbridge.”
“It’s unusual for someone who’s buying property to think of trails first,” adds Alice. “It’s pretty phenomenal.”
And yet: The 1.5-mile Blakely Hill Trails have been donated to the Bainbridge Island Parks Foundation for public use by islanders Ty Cramer and Steve Romein, on approximately 55 acres they recently purchased east of the historic Port Blakely Cemetery.
The trail easements have in turn been transferred to the Bainbridge Island Metro Park & Recreation District for management as part of the island’s public trail system.
The name is new, but the trails are already in place and will be familiar to some island hikers. Informal paths and one of the island’s oldest roads crisscross the property, bounded by Old Mill Road to the north, Blakely Hill Road to the east and Blakely Avenue to the south. The network also includes the popular Blakely Cemetery Trail.
“This is a tremendous gift to the community,” says Barb Trafton, Bainbridge Island Parks Foundation executive director, who helped coordinate the trail donation. “These trails have been best-kept secrets among the trails radiating from Blakely Harbor Park. The trails meander through beautiful forests and pass the wetlands created by the historic Blakely Mill fire ponds. Though neighbors and trail fans already enjoy these trails, they’ve never actually been in the public domain. Ty and Steve’s extraordinary gift secures them for public use in perpetuity.”
Easements granting public access to the Blakely Hill Trails were accepted by the Bainbridge Island Metro Park & Recreation Board recently. New markers at trailheads are planned, and the trails will be maintained and improved by the Park District Trails Crew, funded by the Parks Foundation.
“The Park District is extremely grateful for the trail easement gift. Ty and Steve are wonderful neighbors,” says Tom Swolgaard, Park Board chair. “We hope to someday achieve a network of cross island trails running north south and east west. We appreciate our partners who are helping us to achieve our goal. The Bainbridge Island Parks Foundation, IslandWood, Land Trust, City of Bainbridge Island and numerous neighbors who have all pitched in to help enrich our community with more places to play and enjoy our glorious Island’s environment. It takes a community to make things happen.”
Cramer and Romein purchased the property from neighbors and IslandWood founders Debbi and Paul Brainerd. The Brainerds established the Blakely Cemetery Trail, a popular switchback path that snakes up the hillside from Blakely Harbor to the quiet pioneer graveyard. While signed at each end, that trail was never formally deeded for public use until now.
Most of the 55 acres will be preserved as permanent open space, and the public trails allow hiking and other nonmotorized uses.
The trails feature varied terrain, from dense, second-growth evergreen forest to less heavily treed stretches beneath broadleaf canopies. Grades are generally uphill from south to north, with the hike up from Blakely Harbor Park particularly vigorous.
A new trail is planned to connect the existing network with nearby Blakely Harbor Park at a second point, creating another opportunity for looped hikes.
The Blakely Hill Trails addition brings Bainbridge Island’s public trail network to more than 41 miles under the stewardship of the Bainbridge Island Metropolitan Park & Recreation District.
“This is a reason why the Bainbridge Parks Foundation, being prominent and accessible to landowners, is so important,” Alice Shorett says. “These landowners knew of the Parks Foundation, had worked with the Foundation previously, and so they thought about (donating) the trail system.”
GETTING THERE: While not yet posted with trailhead signs, the Blakely Hill Trails can be accessed from various points and turnouts on the Blakely Cemetery road, Old Mill Road east of the cemetery, Blakely Hill Road, and off the Cemetery Trail up from Blakely Avenue and across from Blakely Harbor Park. Look for sets of concrete blocks with a trail beyond, and start hiking.