Bikers, runners, bird watchers and other users of the Chehalis Western Trail can pause at four overlooks along the route to enjoy the scenery, have a snack or get a rest.
The overlooks are projects of the Lacey Rotary Club, whose members take the Rotary motto, “Service Above Self,” to heart.
Soon there will be a fifth, more ambitious project: a rest area with picnic tables and benches where the Chehalis-Western intersects with the Tenino-Yelm trail between Rainier and Tenino.
“More than 100,000 people live within a mile of either side of the trail,” said Rotarian Greg Cuoio.
The trail, which runs north from near Rainier to Woodard Bay, passes urban and rural areas, providing access to more than 170 acres of park land, including nearly two miles of frontage along the Deschutes River, and access to Puget Sound, Chambers Lake, wetlands, forests, farmland, creeks, prairies and other habitats, according to the Thurston County Parks and Recreation department.
The first of the overlooks, built 19 years ago was at Chambers Lake. The newest is just off of Shincke Road toward the northern end of the trail.
On a cool June morning, a couple on bicycles spun past the proposed site of the new picnic area on the south end of the trail, too intent on their trip to stop. Later the same couple approached the Shincke Road overlook, more than 30 miles down the trail, still riding with purpose but at a slightly more leisurely pace.
“How’s it goin’?” the male rider called out.
“I hope you brought lunch!” his female companion added, maybe in anticipation of the end of the trail at Woodard Bay, just a few miles away.
“This site has good visibility,” Cuoio said at the Shincke Road overlook. The resting spot has three benches and views of small lakes on either side of the trail. A custom bike rack lets cyclists pause without dropping their bikes to the ground. Bullfrogs sound off and red-winged blackbirds sing their distinctive trill. The lily pads that cover the ponds in the summer disappear over the winter.
Visibility, accessibility and a water view are priorities for the overlooks, said Allen Johnson, a Rotarian who has coordinated the projects. Although the newest one won’t overlook the water, it will include an information kiosk in addition to the benches and picnic area, he said.
The respite sites provide destinations within the trail system, said Kerry Hibdon, Parks department manager.
“We’re really trying to get into ‘place-making,’ ” he said. However, the sites are not trail heads and don’t provide parking.
The overlooks are built for durability. “We have concrete foundations and ramps,” Johnson said about the Shincke Road site. “The decking goes on top of that. The railings are custom-made after the foundations are complete.”
Johnson said local companies give discounts on materials and the club volunteers labor. Some grant money also is used.
“I would characterize our partnership with Rotary as great,” Hibdon said. “We have a group that is willing to support the community and provide a balance between the environment and people’s use of the environment.”