Chris Beale of Tacoma was one of about a dozen volunteers braving the rain to take part in a Washington Trails Association work party at Swan Creek Park on Feb. 13.
The park is one of Beale’s favorites and he enjoys volunteering to improve the hiking trails. “Everybody we see out there is definitely super appreciative,” Beale said.
Beale, 31, is a hiker and backpacker with a passion for trails and active transportation. He is a senior planner for the City of Puyallup and dedicates much of his spare time to trail advocacy work.
He’s in his first year as president of ForeverGreen Trails, a coalition of Pierce County trail advocacy groups. We recently caught up with him to ask a few questions about local trails.
Q: Several trail advocacy groups have said it’s difficult to get younger members, how hard is it to find people your age?
A: When you look at Pierce County and the main trail groups – Foothills Trail Coalition, the Riverwalk Trail group – definitely there is an older generation that is part of that. I’m not sure what the complete answer is, but I think it is a little bit difficult to get people my age and younger than that in these advocacy groups. There are few people on our board that are around my age, but most people are my parents’ age or my grandparents’ age.
It definitely is hard with people having jobs. I’m married but I don’t have kids. I think that’s the biggest thing. Not having kids, I just have a lot of time to be able devote to volunteering. … But I’m hoping we can get more people involved to sustain the trail movement in the county.
Q: What are some of the projects around the county you are most excited about right now?
A: Last year, ForeverGreen was involved in a collaborative project that brought a number of different agencies together to find out how we could connect Puyallup to Tacoma. Looking at, probably, a Riverwalk Trail alignment and also an alignment through Fife. (Groups are planning to apply for grant funding for design work.)
… I think the stuff the City of Tacoma and Metro Parks is doing on the Water Ditch Trail is awesome. But I also think we should be looking at more recreational trails like Swan Creek and how we can expand that kind of trail network.
A: The Foothills (Rails-to-Trails) Coalition is trying to build some soft surface trails and make some headway (on the Foothills Trails) to get to the Carbon River (entrance to Mount Rainier National Park). … What’s really exciting is that the Foothills Trails Coalition is taking the lead on trying to construct some of these trails.
And that is where I’m hoping ForeverGreen and WTA can come out, bring in some volunteers, and get a soft surface trail connected out to the Carbon Entrance.
Q: What is the big dream project right now?
A: I think that the biggest movement right now is the Tahoma to Tacoma movement and trying and try look at how it is going to get done. … The Russell Family Foundation and the Community of Interest program, they are coming out with a study at the end of March that quantifies the environmental and fiscal benefits of having that full trail connection from the Carbon Entrance all the way to Point Defiance.
… What a vision. That is huge. I think if they can quantify the benefits it will build momentum and hopefully get this whole thing done.
Q: Sounds like something for our grandkids?
A: It’s got to be for somebody. You have to take the first step forward.
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ForeverGreen Trails is a coalition of Pierce County trails advocacy groups and government agencies. The group offers information volunteering on its website, forevergreentrails.org.