Bridge Replacements Top List of Trail Projects
After a horse punched its hoof through the decking of a bridge on the Hansville Greenway Trail System, Howie O’Brien knew repairs were a priority this year.
“Some of those bridges are at the end of life, just worn down,” said Howie, who coordinates construction projects for the Greenway. “After this year, three of them will be wider and stronger.”
For years, trail projects consisted mostly of maintenance—clearing downed trees, rerouting water from over the trails. The toll of wear and tear on structures, though, is obvious this year. Already, Howie and other volunteers have replaced boards in the viewing platform over Lower Hawk’s Pond.
Kitsap County Parks provides the Greenway with $1,000 per year for supplies for projects. Volunteers provide the labor. This year the county money will cover the lumber for the bridges and two new benches where hikers can sit and listen to the redwing blackbirds and other birds sing.
Bridges just off the Ponderosa entrance and on the Trillium Loop trail near Hawk’s Hole Creek will be widened from two feet to four feet and curbs will be added on the sides for more comfortable horse crossing. The final bridge design will come from Kitsap County Park probably in early May. Volunteers also will replace a bridge of logs that’s falling apart on the Hood Canal Drive trail.
Projects for the future include a boardwalk over a perpetually muddy area at Post 10.
“Mud is part of hiking, but horse traffic churns it up and bikes leave ruts,” Howie said.
Most projects take no more than an hour to complete. To volunteer, contact Art Ellison at info@Hansvillegreenway.org.
The red alder blocking the trail in the Hansville Greenway was staggering—18-inches thick with leafy branches jutting every which way. It had taken several smaller trees with it. The destruction cut off two trails and drew a small crowd of awed hikers and their dogs.
“I have no clue how many trees we’ve lost this year. Maybe 50?” says Art Ellison, longtime trail volunteer and instructor of chainsaw safety for Kitsap County. “Some people think this year has been wetter. Some trees fall for no apparent reason.”
When they do, Art grabs his 18-pound chainsaw and hiking boots. He’s one of about 50 volunteers who coordinate efforts to keep the Hansville Greenway safe and accessible. They cut and move fallen trees, drain buildups of water, undo unauthorized alternate trails and even occasionally relocate the trail when an uprooted tree takes the pathway with it.
Art brought his professional skills as a forester to the Greenway in 2002. He calls himself a glutton for punishment for volunteering, but he is one of 10 to 15 reliable volunteers you’ll find fixing nearly every calamity. They hike in with chainsaws, Pulaskis and shovels. Art prefers that good-intentioned hikers don’t beat them to the punch.
“We get a little annoyed when we carry all our stuff into the woods and someone’s done the job,” he says. “Safety’s another problem. If they get hurt, it’s on them.”
The red alder project took half an hour to clear. A day later, Art and his crew were on the Hood Canal Trail, cutting a fallen tree that had nearly taken a bridge out with it.
If you spot a trail problem or want to volunteer to help, contact Art, the Greenway webmaster, at info@Hansvillegreenway.org.
We had a lovely Saturday afternoon in November after a week of cold and rain and wind, and the sun drew a number of hikers to the Hansville Greenway. One couple, on their way through the Greenway, arrived at the small bridge below Bear Meadow just as a horse and rider broke through one of the bridge boards and tumbled into the mud below. The people who saw this happen reported it to someone who then reported it to the Greenway. From what we know, the horse and rider were ok, but the bridge needed a quick repair. Jim DeRoy happened to have a board that would fit into the bridge and went out Sunday morning with his tools to make the repair.
We have a number of volunteers in the Greenway who are usually able to respond fairly quickly to reports of maintenance needed. This could be a tree across the trail, a particularly wet area on the trail, or a broken board in a bridge. We always appreciate visitors to the Greenway reporting any of these needs they might encounter. firstname.lastname@example.org is handy for this. It’s also good to know that if help is needed for someone in the Greenway, there are location markers on posts at most trail intersections. You can dial 911 and identify your location by these markers so that help can find you. The Greenway is always open to those with interest in helping on the trails. You can keep up with what’s going on, on either the Facebook page or the website: www.hansvillegreenway.org.
We are saddened by the passing of our friend and long-time Hansville Greenway steward, Lou Nawrot. He was an important member early in the establishment of the Hansville Greenway Association. Lou was our legal advisor and played a big role, working with the County, in negotiating with Pope Resources for the purchase of the lower end of the Greenway.
Lou really enjoyed hiking in the Greenway trails and was especially fond of the trail from Hood Canal Drive to Hawks Hole Creek Bridge. He also liked working on the legal aspects of stewardship providing guidance on rights-of-way and easements. Lou was the first person I called when a question came up about an easement. He was always quick to respond and provided just the right amount of detail.
Lou regularly attended our Greenway meetings and was always a voice of reason and cautioned us wisely on legal issues. The last thing he worked on was to better understand the easements from The Ridge (formerly Sterling Highlands) to the Greenway.
We all will miss him greatly. Our thoughts are with Sara and family.
Michael Szerlog, Hansville Greenway President.
Marvel at the Mushrooms and Stay Healthy
Connie Gordon spots treasure along the Hansville Greenway trails where other hikers see decomposing alder leaves.
“There’s one,” the Hansville resident says, kneeling by a pile of wet leaves and fir needles, sticks from a recent windstorm, and inch-deep footprints in mud. She brushes off the leaves to reveal a clump of brown mushrooms shaped like rising dough balls. Even with the field guides she carries, she’s uncertain about the mushrooms’ identity, but that doesn’t diminish her delight.
“Unless you know for sure what you’re doing, enjoy looking. The thrill is in the hunt,” she says.
The Greenway trails are known for Chanterelle mushrooms in the soggy fall and morels in the spring. The animals dine on many of them before the mushrooms can do their part to help rotting logs decay and return to the earth.
Connie urges caution to hunters. She’s studied mushrooms in the wild for 30 years but doesn’t consider herself an expert. Carrying All That the Rain Promises and More by David Arora, The Mushroom Pocket Field Guide by Howard Bigelow, and “Edible Mushrooms,” a pamphlet she picked up at the Chimacum Ranger Station, she tries to identify giant white mushrooms with birdbath tops.
She turns them over and checks their gills. She shakes out spores that are smaller than poppy seeds and grow more mushrooms. Uncertain what they are, she shifts her attention to the white artist’s palettes sticking out from tree trunks and a cluster of mushrooms that resemble closed umbrellas.
“They’re as much fun to see as anything,” she says.
For those interested, there is a local club affiliated with the North American Mycological Association. The Kitsap Peninsula Mycological Society is located in Bremerton. Their website is https://kitsapmushroommichs.org.
by Cynthia Taggart
What Dennis Kommer can do in a few hours in the Hansville Greenway saves trail volunteers days of toil, tangles and thorns. It also saves two meadows that provide homes for voles, field mice and frogs and a pastoral view for people.
“There’s a lot more life living in the meadows than dragonflies,” says Howie O’Brien, who’s in charge of projects for the Greenway Association.
Dennis, who owns Dennis Kommer Excavating LLC, has volunteered for the past three years to mow down the blackberries and other invasive plants that threaten to overtake the 10-acre Otter Meadow located west of the Greenway entrance near the Hansville Community Center ballfield and the two-acre Bear Meadow located near the north end of Buck Lake.
Finding the ideal time to mow is tricky. Machines are too dangerous to run in the meadows during fire season and get stuck in the mud during the rainy season. Spring is the time for nesting. When Dennis is notified the time is right, he climbs onto his excavator with a flail mower and downs blackberry brambles, alder sprouts and thistles while he spares, with guidance, canary grass, Douglas spirea and clumps of Salmonberry. Without the mowing, the forest eventually would reclaim the former farmland.
The Trail Association uses self-propelled mowers for smaller jobs on the Greenway but rented a tractor for the meadows until Dennis volunteered.
“We live here in Hansville,” says Beth Kommer, Dennis’s wife and partner. “Mowing the meadows is our way to give back. It’s easy for us to do and we love to do it.”
By Cynthia Taggart
Fall is here! The leaves are crisp and bright, crinkling underfoot.
But, once you go into the cover of forest
You’ll find it marvelously unchanged.
Fall is implied with some leaves on the ground
Yet ferns and the evergreens stand strong and tall
The scene remains a cascade of bright and dark greens.
The quality of air is the biggest indication of a shift;
Into rich, clear oxygenated breaths
As the decomposing leaves add their surprisingly fresh, marvelous aroma.
(Strange how mother earth can make the decomposition of leaves smell so lovely)
The decomposition of leaves reminds me
That nothing is forever
We are born, we live rich lives, and then we fall back into the earth
And so, I am prompted to live each day fully.
Walking in the Greenway, I become aware of how lucky we are
To still have well-kempt forests and trails
That help transform toxic air into fresh air.
It took some time for the smoke to clear
But now that it has, I’m so grateful
To have cool air that fills and cleanses my lungs.
Today, I walked from Buck Lake to Lower Hawk’s Pond
It’s such a treat when you arrive to the brightness of the pond
To hear the beaver splashing,
Watch ducks flying in and out
And to listen to the sound of the frogs.
By Emily Cooper
The Hansville Greenway is beautiful at this time of year. If you enter through Buck Lake Park, you may be greeted by barn swallows flying high and low, their iridescent blue backs glinting sunlight. They are hunting insects, acrobatically twisting and turning, riding small waves of wind that only they can detect. They often fly so low that you can see the whole top of their body in flight – something we humans rarely get to observe in birds.
As I watch them, it is hard to tell if they are doing these aerial tricks for the sole purpose to catch insects. I like to imagine they’re riding the waves as we would ride a rollercoaster; in part to catch food, but in part to have some good, old fashioned, exhilarating fun. What a beautiful flight pattern. One of nature’s many art forms.
To observe the art of Nature is different than observing art in a screen. It pulls us out of our head, out of our focused view. It surrounds us and embraces us. Something magical happens – focus moves from the head to the heart; senses heighten, one can feel a vibrancy that is not achievable in front of your computer screen.
The swallows seem to split their time between the meadows – Buck Lake Park, Lower Hawk’s Pond, Bear Meadow. I haven’t figured out the pattern yet. But if you catch them at any of their frequented locations, you will be rewarded by their beautiful twirling ups and downs, as you sit watching them, basked in the gentle Washington sun.
We also wanted to let everyone know that the logging operations have stopped for the year and all trails are now open. A big thank you to all the volunteers that worked hard removing downed trees and brush to open the trails.
By Emily A. Cooper
The Sounds of Summer are here…
In these uncertain times, taking a short hike in the Greenway can help us recharge and temporarily block out the daily challenges we are facing. Just stepping onto the trail you begin to see the sights of the emerging brilliant green Douglas Fir tips and the pinkish-purple petals of the Salmonberry flowers. Your mind begins to take in these sights as you navigate from meadow, to the edges of wetlands, to the forest. Once inside, the smells of the cool dark forest floor begin to transform you into a more relaxed state. At times you pass by a spot where the sunlight pierces the canopy and warms the surrounding air. Deeper into the forest, you begin to hear the sounds of the birds singing in the tree canopy. One of those birds, the Swainson’s Thrush, is very common in the Greenway and fills the forest with its upward-spiraling, flutelike song. It is a bird that is often heard, but rarely seen. It is smaller than a robin with a russet-colored back and speckled front, making it disappear when in the canopy or on the forest floor where it feeds on insects. The Swainson’s Thrush has two distinctive sounds, the flutelike song and a sharp, high-pitched “drip….drip…drip” which seems to be coming from a branch within reach in one second and then two trees away in the next. Often the sounds follow you as you continue down the trail, hoping to catch a fleeting glimpse. Soon the “drip…drip…drip” sound is replaced with an amazingly beautiful song with trills and spirals that fills the forest with a concert and lets you know that Summer is here.
So, next time you are in the Greenway, listen for the Swainson’s Thrush and try to see if you can catch a glimpse….
By Michael Szerlog
The Hansville Greenway has played a key role in our Covid lock down survival plan. Most afternoons we head out with our dog to one of the trail entrances and surround ourselves with wilderness, birdsong, and calm for an hour or two. We have explored every trail in every direction. Logging has shortened some hikes, but we know trail volunteers will rebuild those portions soon after logging has stopped.
We often stop at the Lower Hawks pond viewing platform and watch and listen to the Red Winged Blackbirds and other local birds. Sometimes we walk to the Quiet Place and look at the beaver dam and lily pads, or to Bear Meadow Vista for a view of Buck Lake and a mysterious tiny door to a tree home. We always return home refreshed and renewed.
We’re so lucky the Hansville Greenway Trails are close to our Driftwood Key house. The trails are an amazing perk to the Hansville community. For history, a map, and volunteering information, go to http://hansvillegreenway.org/the-hansville-greenway-association/ . Also, check out Hansville Greenway on Facebook.
By Tom & Cynthia Taggart