Some of us only ride, hike, or run trails. But there are many others who also support outdoor recreation and conservation groups and volunteer their time on trail and restoration projects. We need more of the latter, people who are trail and public land champions, like Bill Way and the NEWTS, Diana Roberts, and Bill Kinzel. (OTO)
Bill Way and the NEWTS
It began with a simple outdoor adventure. In about 2013, Bill Way’s friend (who happens to be Out There’s own Derrick Knowles) asked if Way would hike with him to find an obscure trail he’d seen on a map of the Colville National Forest. The goal was to determine whether the trail might make for a good mountain biking route.
“What Derrick found on an older map was the end of the Taylor Ridge Trail,” says Way—a feeder to the Pacific Northwest Trail on the Kettle Crest. Three miles of this trail, known as the “Tom Creek” section, had been washed out about 20 years ago “in a tremendous rainstorm.” Trail maintenance had ceased at that time.
With some difficulty, they found the trail. To Way, a retired teacher who lives outside Colville, it was clearly full of potential for mountain biking, with the restored segment and potential future road access resulting in a 20+ mile, shuttleable ride with exciting shifts in elevation, big trees, and water access.
First, though, would come a significant amount of work. Way formed The Northeast Washington Trailblazers (NEWTS), a nonprofit dedicated to promoting non-motorized outdoor recreation and establishing trails and routes in northeast Washington. It quickly grew to over 100 members. Way served as president for four years and is currently on the group’s board. Taylor Ridge was the instigator for the group’s formation. Once the members held meetings, though, other projects came to the fore and were also undertaken, notably including work on the Colville Mountain Trail and the Sherman Creek Wildlife Area.
Much of the trail’s work is facilitated and coordinated through Kristin Ackerman, the Eastern Washington Regional Coordinator of the Pacific Northwest Trails Association. “Bill is great. He’s a champion. I wish we could clone him,” Ackerman says. “We’ve seen him handily outwork younger, less experienced volunteers. In and out of the field, Bill is an invaluable member of the trail community.”
The work of volunteers and partnering organizations like the NEWTS, says Ackerman, is “super critical” when it comes to a functional and expanding trail system. “The recreation departments, especially in the Forest Service, they’re not getting as many resources as they need to take care of all of our trails.”
Current NEWTS president Matt Monbouquette (owner of Colville bike shop Adventure Peddler) says he’s working to “fill Bill Way’s very large shoes…Bill’s leadership has been the cornerstone of the organization for a long time. His passion for the outdoors and creating new places for people to recreate is inspiring.”
“The Taylor Ridge Trail is really the crown jewel of the NEWTS organization,” Monbouquette says. “Due to the persistence of Bill and the NEWTS group we did work on the trail with the blessing of the Forest Service, and now the Forest Service is sending work crew/trail parties to the trail to work on it annually. That is really our biggest achievement and the main focus of the organization the past few years.”
Way cautions those interested in similar efforts to be prepared for physical work and to recognize that things probably won’t move quickly. “It just takes a long time sometimes,” he says, given that working on trails you’re likely partnering with trails organizations, the Forest Service, state or national parks, and/or the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, all with rules and regulations to follow. For those who’d like to tackle their own projects, Way recommends contacting an organization like the Washington Trails Association for advice—or, of course, a group like the NEWTS (Northeast Washington Trailblazers on Facebook, or email newasts [at] gmail [dot] com).
For his part, Way finds that the effort and patience required for stewarding public lands are well worth it. “It has taken quite a bit of my time sometimes, but it’s been very rewarding to see things come together. It’s given me connections to people that have maybe similar interests but maybe I wouldn’t have known. I’ve learned a lot about how to get things done,” he says. “Plus, I love to go out and hike and bike and ski on the trails, too.”