McCollum Park nature trail is a labor of love

EVERETT — With a whole lot of volunteer help, the nature path steadily is taking shape.

Leaders of a project to build an elevated interpretive boardwalk trail at the southeast end of McCollum Park figure they’ve completed about 55 percent of the work.

On Saturday, they had a show-and-tell session to give people a glimpse of the progress.

It’s remarkable in many ways.

The boardwalk will use more than 250,000 pounds of pop bottles and containers that have been recycled into plastic lumber. There will be more than 80,000 screws in the boardwalk, which will cross a trout stream.

The trail, complete with foot bridges and educational signs, will loop about a half mile through the woods east of North Creek and around the wetland area on a 20-acre piece of land leased from Snohomish County. It will cost more than $500,000.

To date, 158 people have volunteered to make it happen.

In May through July alone, volunteers worked more than 1,100 hours.

Tom Murdoch, director of the Adopt A Stream Foundation, a nonprofit restoration and education group, credits regulars Marian Hanson and Larry Gearheard with leading the planning, design, construction and preservation efforts.

“None of this would be happening if it wasn’t for Marian and Larry and their energy and dedication,” he said.

Murdoch said the beauty of the project is the way it interconnects forests, wetlands, streams, fish, wildlife and people.

The recycled plastic lumber comes by truck in 42,000-pound loads. The first arrived in June.

Volunteers used the dry months to “get through the wettest of wet first,” Murdoch said. In some places, they toiled waist-deep in mud. They’re now working on drier terrain at the beginning of the trail.

Many people have spent long hours removing invasive vegetation, stuffing a huge container with deadly night shade. Its removal revealed a headwater stream flowing from a pond.

They’ve also dug up native plants where the boardwalk is being built and will transplant them elsewhere on the site.

“We wanted to make sure we practiced what we preached,” Murdoch said.

The site includes a mix of Sitka spruce, western red cedar, vine maple, osier dogwood, deer ferns, sedges, rushes and a grove of skunk cabbages.

When the project is complete, passersby will be able to peer through windows into the stream where cutthroat trout will feast on a diverse diet of insects. The stream also is home to fresh water mussels and clams.

While volunteers work on the trail, Adopt A Stream continues to seek financial help. Saturday was a good day with more than $7,000 given in donations and sponsorships.

Murdoch can’t predict with any certainty when the project will be completed. So much depends on the weather. He’s hoping the elevated nature trail will be done by year’s end and other work, such as creating and installing interpretive signs, by late spring or early summer.

The long-range plan is for the trail to be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. six days a week, including weekends. Groups of up to 30 will be staggered each half hour.

To learn more about the project, volunteer opportunities and how to donate, go to www.streamkeeper.org or call 425-316-8592.

Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446, stevick@heraldnet.com

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