Such is the breadth of the Bainbridge park system that five young adults who mostly grew up on the island, and made full use of its abundant trails as kids, could still find themselves on unfamiliar ground.  

Running, mountain biking, or just walking the family dog, all trails in their youth seemed to lead elsewhere. Then, Summer Trails Crew led them to Manzanita Park. 

“I’ve never been to this park, but it’s nice,” Benjamin Logan mused, raking gravel across a dusty hollow deep within the 120-acre park off Day Road West. “Grand Forest is usually a lot more busy. If you need somewhere that’s not busy, come out here. You may see horse poo, but you can walk around that.”

Logan and colleagues Erin Thackray, Megan Boulware, Jack Harbour and Will Gleason – all, improbably, new to the park – spent much of the week lopping back brush and graveling low spots along Manzanita’s two miles of forested trails. 

Always popular with equestrians, the park also has much to offer the average walker: a vigorous loop through mildly rolling terrain, enough side-turnings to sometimes lose your way, and in the lower reaches, hints of true away-ness. Even the crew remarked on it: the trees seemed older and taller than their usual park haunts, the environs quieter, the dense woods of the park’s westernmost leg farther removed from the great world beyond. 

As Jack Harbour put it, “pure nature.” And today, with better trails. 

Now in its seventh year, the Summer Trails Crew is in the field with five new faces for a season of essential work on an island trail network now stretching more than 42 miles.   

Last season marked a watershed year for the program. With college students marooned on the island by COVID, some of the crew worked right up to the week before Christmas. Along the way, they built a new trail system from scratch at Sakai Park, with boardwalks to Sakai Pond and a terminus for the new Sound To Olympics Trail extension.  

This year’s crew should run a more modest 10 weeks. Besides the annual maintenance regime on trails islandwide, they’ll tackle smaller projects like wheelchair access on the Cave-to-Ferncliff neighborhood path, and rerouting Gazzam Lake’s Deerpath trailhead. Pruning at Meigs Park will open the way for boardwalk construction in the future. 

Summer Trails Crew is funded by the Bainbridge Island Parks Foundation and Bainbridge Metro Parks, with grant support from Bainbridge Community Foundation. 

“It’s very rewarding seeing young people who’ve grown up with Bainbridge trails devoting their summer break to giving back, and ensuring our trails are safe and inviting for those who come after,” said Barb Trafton, Parks Foundation project director. “We tend to think of our trails as connecting neighborhoods and communities, but you can start to see how trails connect generations, too.” 

“Giving back” is the common refrain. You come to appreciate how deeply, and from how many angles, Bainbridge parks and trails can intersect with young islanders’ lives. 

A self-described “ outdoorsy kid,” Megan Boulware recalls romping around the Grand Forest, clambering over fallen trees and looking for hidey-holes. For Erin Thackray, it was an adolescence spent mountain biking with the Gear Grinders club.

“It was really enjoyable to be able to get out on the trails and go fast and learn new skills,” she said. “Everyone on the team was super great and nice, so it just felt like a great environment to hang out in and have fun.” 

Will Gleason trained on island trails with BHS cross country, summiting Hilltop on runs between Grand Forest east and west. 

“Great place to train, off the roads,” Gleason said. “Bainbridge roads in general are a little bit harrowing to run on, so it’s good to have an outlet like this. Battle Point itself is not very fun to run at, it’s so open, but to get into the Grand Forest was always a highlight.” 

Now, Summer Trails Crew offers a chance to spend the summer working out of doors, away from screens, and with a good workout in the bargain. Not that they expected such, but it’s no picnic. 

“It’s nice actually doing hard work. That’s a cool aspect,” Jack Harbour said. “My last job was washing dishes in a restaurant. That was hard too, but it’s nice doing actual physical exertion. You come home, you’re tired, you actually want to go to bed.” 

It was late afternoon. Soon one more load of gravel – the last of the day – would be dumped at their feet, and Harbour and Logan would spread, rake and tamp it into the earth to firm up the footing of whomever might follow next. Tomorrow: repeat. 

“I’m definitely going to come out here more often,” Logan said. “One, for the park, and two, to admire my handiwork.”

Summer Trails Crew 2021