New trail coming to Northern State Recreation Area

May 5, 2019

SEDRO-WOOLLEY — Members of the Skagit Trail Builders are hard at work on a new trail at the Northern State Recreation Area.

The trail, the first in the group’s Northern State Regional Trails Project, is called the Pump House Trail. It will be open to hikers and bikers.

“Our top priority is to make trails multi-use because we want to accommodate as many people as possible,” Skagit Trail Builders Executive Director Jim “J.T.” Taylor said.

Partnering with Skagit County Parks and Recreation and the Port of Skagit, the goal of the project is re-establishing the trails that were once used by patients at the old Northern State Hospital to go from the hospital to its farm.

“There is a lot of history out here,” said Skagit County Parks and Recreation Director Brian Adams. “A lot of historical buildings still remain. This will be an interpretive trail with a historic theme about water usage. There was an expansive water system here at one time.”

A fire hydrant flanks the trail. Not far from it, an old light post lies forgotten. A bit farther on, a large, concrete pump house with its patina-covered generator and a menagerie of rusty pipes sits along Hill Creek.

Skagit Trail Builders members Taylor, Art Tuftee, and Jerry Granahan have extensive knowledge, experience and expertise when it comes to the work being done at the Northern State Recreation Area.

“It has to do with aesthetics, sustainability and the experience a trail can provide,” Tuftee explained. “It’s like a three-legged stool. You have to have all three components.”

And there is science involved.

It stands to reason a trail highlighting water would be plagued by it.

“This trail has water issues,” Tuftee said. “The soil has a high clay content and it tends to get saturated, then water pools and it becomes a slimy mess. Plus, it’s slow to dry. So we have to use techniques, such as no flat spots, having subtle dips and curves.”

Located to the east of the main campus, the trail borders Hill Creek, a tributary of Hansen Creek. It then heads north before reconnecting with a pre-existing trail to form a loop of about 0.8 of a mile.

A bridge will eventually span Hansen Creek just below where Hill Creek flows into it to provide access to the trailhead.

The new trail is taking shape following several volunteer work parties. More are scheduled.

“You want it (the trail) to look like the rest of it (the surrounding area),” Tuftee said. “Like it belongs ... Fortunately, we have a map from 1969 and it’s still accurate. We have some old stock routes and we will work to open them up.”

Taylor said the support the project has received from the community has been fantastic, saying there is a contingent of folks wanting to see more trails.

“It’s exciting,” Taylor said. “It’s fantastic to see it coming together.”