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News / Life / Clark County Life

Beating a path to Vancouver Lake Trail

Newest addition to regional trail system popular with residents

By Jessica Prokop, Columbian Local News Editor
Published: June 22, 2016, 6:01am
4 Photos
Michelle Collins jogs with her Labradors, 2-year-old Ellie and 1-year-old Sage,on a new nature trail June 7 west of Vancouver Lake. Volunteers from the Washington Trails Association and Clark County completed the 2.5-mile roundtrip trail in February.
Michelle Collins jogs with her Labradors, 2-year-old Ellie and 1-year-old Sage,on a new nature trail June 7 west of Vancouver Lake. Volunteers from the Washington Trails Association and Clark County completed the 2.5-mile roundtrip trail in February. (Natalie Behring/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

On an unseasonably warm June morning, 38-year-old Matthew Ellis could be found running through a cottonwood forest just west of Vancouver Lake.

Ellis has been using the barrier-free path to train for an upcoming half-marathon since earlier this year, when the gravel path was still under construction.

“You can hear the woodpeckers and other birds out there. Sometimes, I turn off my iPod when I get to that part so I can listen,” he said.

Construction on Vancouver Lake Trail, the newest addition to the regional trail system, wrapped up in February; the trail was dedicated last month.

Ellis comes to the lake to run three or four times a week, he said, and often starting on the Frenchman’s Bar trail, running to the lake and then through the forest.

“It’s a nice complement to that trail system. There are beautiful views,” he said. Although the lake isn’t visible from the new trail, which is about 2.5 miles round-trip, there’s an abundance of wildlife to see.

About a dozen people were out on the trail the morning of June 7. Some rode their bicycles while others walked their dogs or ran.

Despite the activity, the trail was mostly serene. A couple of deer grazed nearby, and a woodpecker hammered on a tree.

Michelle Collins of Vancouver jogged with her Labradors, 2-year-old Ellie and 1-year-old Sage. She brings her pooches to the lake trails a couple times a month.

“They love it. There’s all kinds of stuff to sniff and places to get into trouble,” said Collins, 43. “They’re young labs, so they need a lot of exercise.”

Collins likes that the new trail is secluded and shaded, she said, especially on hot days, like the county has seen so far this spring. She said she stumbled upon the path last month while out at the lake.

The trail extends about a mile through the forest before it ends at a dirt road. A new bridge to the west crosses the Buckmire Slough, providing access for pedestrians and bicyclists to the state Highway 501 spur near its dead-end. Dogs are welcome year-round.

Volunteers from the Washington Trails Association and the county worked on the trail for nearly two years.

“A lot of people are going to be able to use it and have access to it,” said Jean Akers, 62, a volunteer with the Washington Trails Association.

Akers, who used to work for the city’s Parks & Recreation Department, said she was involved in the planning and permitting of the trail. “I had a lot of motivation to implement it,” she said, adding that she walks the area regularly.

“Every time I’m on there, I’m always meeting other people,” she said.

In January, Akers and her husband saw 24 different bird species during a one-hour walk on the trail. The experience has motivated her to get outside with her binoculars, she said.

Another volunteer, 70-year-old Ted Klump of Vancouver said a lot of time and labor went into constructing the trail.

“It was constructed as an accessible trail so people with physical disabilities will be able to use it,” he said. “I think one of the nice things about urban trails is they are fairly easy to get to, and in the summer, you can walk that trail in the evening when it’s still daylight.”

Volunteers cleared thick brush from the path and laid down 3 to 4 inches of gravel, he said.

“I think it’s going to be a really nice trail. My understanding is that there’s plans in the distant future to push it further north,” Klump said.

Some trail users worry the new trail will attract too many people, scaring off wildlife and creating problems, such as litter.

Ryan Ojerio, the Washington Trail Association’s southwest regional manager, said he thinks the county did its due diligence in understanding what impacts the trail may have on the surrounding wildlife.

“My hope is that bringing more people in there to appreciate the trail and to appreciate the forest will discourage others from going there to get away from the eyes of the public,” he said.

To get to the trail from Vancouver Lake Regional Park, walk north past the large-group picnic area on a gravel road. The road will enter the forest and continue about 700 feet before turning west. The footpath begins at the bend in the road.

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