Emerald Heights currently has available assisted living apartments ready for move in. Click here to learn more!

Ready for a Change of Pace? Our Nature Trail (and Our Community) May Be Just What You’re Looking For

March 27, 2024

Although Emerald Heights has expanded and upgraded numerous times in the last three decades, one of the earliest features of our community is still, hands down, one of the favorites: our nature trail.

It, too, has expanded over the years from the original half-mile segment volunteers built in the first few years after Emerald Heights opened. With a number of loop trails connected to the perimeter trail that encircles our community, the total walking area is now over one mile. Just like the initial part of the trail, every segment that’s been added — along with the trail’s upkeep — has been a labor of love by residents who volunteer their time and effort.

As a result of this group of dedicated (and literal!) trailblazers, everyone who lives at Emerald Heights can enjoy the benefits of outdoor recreation.

Some residents appreciate being able to escape into nature so close to home. Others want a little outdoor exercise. Quite a few residents like taking their dog for a walk on the trail. Incidentally, dogs aren’t the only creatures you might spot walking on the trail — the neighborhood deer also seem to like the cleared paths.   

Considering how much the nature trail adds to our community, you can see why it’s a top reason people choose to live at Emerald Heights. Perhaps it would be for you, as well.

The Emerald Heights Trail “Crew”

On Tuesday and Thursday mornings, a group of residents — usually four to six — meets at a designated spot to work on the trail for an hour or so. Afterward, they adjourn to the coffee shop for a beverage while they discuss what needs to be done the next time.

Any resident who wants to pitch in is welcome to show up, so the group varies. Jim Hawn, who started helping out with the trail soon after he moved to Emerald Heights in 2018, has led the group for the past few years.

Jim says he enjoys being outside and “doing that kind of work.” He also likes the social aspect of engaging in such a worthwhile endeavor with his friends and neighbors in the community.

Jim points out that Emerald Heights is located on 38 acres, with approximately 17 acres of developed or landscaped land. The rest, he notes, are preserves.

“The trails make you feel like you’re way out in the woods somewhere, away from any kind of humanity,” he says, “yet you’re right here in Redmond.”

While Jim will continue to be part of the group, he’ll be handing over the leadership role to Bob Norum. Like most of the resident-led groups and councils at Emerald Heights, the trail group gives a different resident the opportunity to lead every few years (and in some cases more often).

From Bob’s perspective, the group’s main objective is to keep the trail safe for others. But, he adds, he “gets a big charge out of being part of the group” because they enjoy themselves while doing something productive and getting some outside exercise.

“We’re making a contribution, and it doesn’t hurt that we have a lot of fun doing it,” Bob says, noting that other residents let them know how much they appreciate the work they do to maintain the trail.

What Does the Trail Crew Do?

Given that most of the residents who help to maintain the trail are in their 80s (or older), their safety is always a priority. The group collaborates with the head of the Emerald Heights Facilities staff on bigger projects. A professional tree service regularly inspects the forest for potential hazards, providing tree trimming and removal when necessary. 

Although it may not exactly be hard labor, those who help maintain the trail get a good outdoor workout. For instance, they regularly gather fallen tree limbs and transport them to a designated spot where they’re fed through the new wood chipper (more on that below). It’s part of the fire mitigation strategy initiated by Philip Keightley another resident who has devoted a great deal of time to working on the trail. Then, they scatter the wood chips on the loop trails. Jim says residents like walking on the softer surfaces the chips provide.  

The group also maintains the handrails placed as a precaution along steeper portions of the trail, nonskid surfaces on the footbridges that cross over the creek and the overflow spillways from the stormwater retention ponds. To keep the trail looking nice and help prevent falls, the group uses an electric blower to rid the trail of dead leaves and other debris.

The Whole Community Reaps the Rewards

emerald heights nature trails

Making sure the trail stays safe and beautiful is truly a group effort. Fortunately, ever since that pioneering group of residents built the first segment of the trail, there have always been those who realize how special the trail is and are eager to help keep it that way.

New ideas for the trail crop up on a regular basis — like installing a birdhouse near where a barn owl had been spotted several times. (Yes, the owl moved in!) 

Some of the larger trail projects require more than physical activity, supplies and expertise. Occasionally, engineering experts might be called for, or there may be a need to get permits from local authorities before a desired improvement to the trail can proceed. More often than not, someone who lives here can — and is happy to — help get the job done.

Over the years, so many dedicated residents have stepped up, contributing their time, talents, energy and know-how to make the nature trail a source of pride for the entire community.   

Generous Residents Show Their Appreciation

Residents can make tax-deductible donations to Emerald Heights and designate how they want their donation to be spent.

Thanks to donations earmarked for the nature trail (and especially donations made by one extremely generous resident), the trail group now has a new Kawasaki Mule and a new wood chipper with extra safety features.

Donations have also paid for two new 12-by-16 Tuff Sheds, complete with foundations. One of the sheds replaced a smaller shed and is being used for the new Mule, and the other will store the new chipper.

This generosity brings into focus just how much residents cherish the trail, whether they use it for birdwatching, to get the benefits of exercising outdoors or, as Jim puts it, as a “silent psychologist.” Taking a stroll in the forest is good for both mind and body!

Some Key Benefits of Outdoor Exercise

The benefits of working out outside, also referred to as green exercise, are manifold. Along with the usual benefits associated with regular physical exercise, such as lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, managing weight, and strengthening bones and muscles, exercising outside can:

  • Ease stress, depression and anxiety
  • Increase vitamin D, which boosts the immune system and helps prevent osteoporosis
  • Make it easier to stick with an exercise routine
  • Improve mood by stimulating positive thoughts and emotions
  • Motivate you to exercise more often

As a bonus, research suggests exercising in a natural outdoor setting may have a greater impact on cognitive function than a similar physical activity done indoors.

Let’s Talk … and Walk!

While our interactive map gives you an idea of how the nature trail winds around our community and shows you how convenient it is to all of the residences, there’s nothing like seeing it in person. Contact us or call 866-822-0916 to arrange a visit.

Featured Image: Jake Johnson Pictures, 2021