Editorial: Trail repair step in right direction

As someone who’s been a runner for more years than my knees care to remember, I’m very interested in trails.

Anyone who spends a lot of time putting in the miles on our local roads knows that running on pavement has its downside. You don’t generally notice this in a car, but nearly every paved road in our area has a definite camber €“ a slant to help the rainwater run off when it’s wet. The problem is that when you run mile after mile on that angled surface, it starts to take its toll €“ at least when you’re almost 50 like me.

Trails, on the other hand, offer a more varied surface that’s usually relatively even and they have more cushion. I greatly appreciate what local runners call the “railroad trail,” which follows the old Dollar railroad bed from Sankey Park to a point past Vista Avenue. I often run that three or four times a week.

But other than the local logging roads, most of which require a drive to get to and usually feature some daunting hill climbs, there are not a lot of other soft-surface options around Sweet Home that go any distance, unless you want to circle the high school athletic fields, where most injured high school runners have to do their recovery work.

There is another option: Foster Lake Trail, which circles most of the lake after being constructed in the 1990s by local walking enthusiasts Because there has been no organized effort to maintain it, it has fallen into disrepair.

Recently though, an East Linn County community leadership class, funded by the Ford Foundation through Rural Development Initiatives, has taken on the project of restoring the Foster Lake Trail between Gedney Creek Boat Ramp and Lewis Creek Park.

About 20 of the “cohort,” as they refer to themselves, were out there last Saturday, picking up trash, cutting invasive ivy that was taking over certain sections of the trail, and working on blackberries that were encroaching on other sections. It was the first of what the cohort intends to be several workdays to get the trail back to what it once was. You can see photos on page 10.

The group’s goal is to eventually establish a trail that will run all the way around the lake and set up a system whereby it will be maintained, maybe by local organizations or individuals who would “adopt” particular sections.

The section that was being worked on Saturday is not fit for much more than walking, or running, as my dog and I did later. It probably will never be wide enough for biking and, frankly, I think most cyclists would enjoy North River Drive or a logging road a lot more. But it’s great for walking, winding through the forest along the lakeshore. And if you’re careful where you put your feet, you can run it for the two miles between Gedney and Lewis creeks.

In the slightly more than five years I’ve lived here, Sweet Home has made progress. There are more businesses today to cater to residents and visitors. We need stores and services not only for ourselves but to serve the people who come to enjoy the wealth of natural beauty that many of us may hardly notice because we’re used to it. There’s a reason why those campers roll and boat trailers roll through, why the ever-increasing packs of recreational motorcyclists stop here for gas and food before heading into the mountains. I watch them every day from our office window and I’m glad we’re improving our community’s ability to take advantage of their interest in our area.

This trail is just one more piece of that puzzle. It’s one more reason why someone might want to stop in Sweet Home, might want to get a pizza or buy an ice cream cone, might want to stay overnight. To fully take advantage of the potential our community has to profit from tourism, we need to be able to offer people ways they can enjoy the beauty we live in. City people want to get away from concrete, and a functional lakeside trail is a great way to do it. And it’s good for those of us who live here too.

This is a start. The trail runs through a few blackberry patches; there is ivy; there are places where footbridges need repair. There’s a lot of garbage. (Unfortunately, people who use the lake don’t always pick up their toilet paper or diapers.)

If you’re interested in helping with this effort, the cohort is planning another work party from noon to 4 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 25, starting at Lewis Creek Park. Bring your clippers and other tools and help them out. I may have a conflict that day but if I don’t, I plan to be there.