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Emerald Heights Nature Trail

March 11, 2016



John and Donna Bailey researched their retirement home in January 2009 by visiting from their former home in Southern Maryland. Of eleven facilities in the Pacific Northwest, Emerald Heights in Redmond was selected. They moved to Emerald Heights in December 2009.


A significant factor in the Bailey’s selection of Emerald Heights was the Nature Trail, a one-mile walk through the forest circling the 38-acre campus. The trail is not level but the grades are acceptable for those individuals who are ambulatory without walking aids. It is about six feet wide, except for the new connecting trail on the north end of Emerald Heights. The construction of the trail and its continuing maintenance are the responsibility of the EH Beautification Committee. This history of the EH Nature Trail was written following review of previous articles in Emerald Lights (resident newsletter). The Trail was built in five major segments by volunteers.


1994-7 West Side “Nature Trail”. The first Emerald Heights nature trail, located on the west side of the property was started in September 1994 and finished in 1997. It starts at the cottages on the southwest corner and runs clockwise through deep forest in a northerly direction to the bus parking lot. The spur and bridge were added to give access to the fence gate on the west side. This one-half mile long trail was built in the forest by residents who worked Friday mornings. The workers on this phase were: Jack Wright [concept originator and chief motivator], Dick Black, Jim Campbell, Susan Clark [chief grubber], Bill Dumar [crew organizer], Myron Ernst, Fred Francis, George Gallios, Kay Hardin, Bruce Healy, Bill Hornby, Jack Kennedy, John McEwen, Dave Merrill, Norris Miller, Jim Nelson, Lucian Truscott, Ron Smith, Oliver Spaulding, Ellen Taves, Don Taves, Larry Turnbull, Cathy Volwiler, Wade Volwiler, and Choy Zane.


1997-8 South Side “Trails End”. This portion on the south side was added in 1997-8. It starts at the main road entry and runs westerly to connect with the Nature Trail at the cottages near the rose garden circle. The workers were: Jack Wright [chief architect/engineer], Dick Black, Norm Blanchard, Jim Campbell, Susan Clark, Bill Dumar, Fred Francis, Gordon Faulkner, George Gallios, Kay Hardin, Jack Kennedy, Norris Miller, Ernie McKibben [chief botanist], Dave Merrill, Jim Nelson, Marjory Rowley, Carita Schwanke, Ron Smith, Don Taves, Helen Terrell, Lucian Truscott, Larry Turnbull, Cathy Volwiler, Wade Volwiler, Howard Weber, Wendell Wonderly, and Choy Zane. The crew thought this was the end!


2001-2 East Side “The Trace”. From the beginning, Jack Wright continued to improve the beautification of Emerald Heights with his team of volunteers. This section along the east side of the property is named “The Trace”. It goes from the main road entry gate counter clockwise to a sitting area in the trees across from the Corwin Center. Workers on this section were: Warren Anderson, Susan Clark, Bill Dumar, Ernie McKibben, Jim Nelson, Carita Schwanke, Granny Smith, Ron Smith, Howard Weber, and Jack Wright.


2003-8 West Side “High Trail”. The High Trail loop was constructed branching off the southwest corner of the nature trail. It goes from the spur on the Nature Trail, turns northerly, and comes down in a couple of switchbacks to the new bridge built in April 2008 crossing the creek to connect to the original Nature Trail. Workers on this portion were: Bob Brett, Susan Clark, Ralph Dines, Bill Dumar, Jim Easley, Judy Hjorth, Barbara Hughes, Andy Kruzich, Ernie McKibben, Russ Smedley, Ed Smith, Howard Weber, and Jack Wright.


2010 Northeast Side “Connecting Trail”. The connecting trail to complete the total perimeter trail was suggested by new resident John Bailey. He was encouraged by volunteer trail crew boss Russ Smedley [“it would only be done if the guy suggesting it worked on it”]. With the work of residents and the cooperation of the Emerald Heights staff, construction of the connecting trail was started in February 2010 and completed in late June 2010 when two low bridges were built over the overflow spillways of storm water retention ponds. The new connecting trail extends from the previously built trail clockwise from the bus parking area on the north side [top center on map] of Emerald Heights perimeter road, passes between the perimeter fencing and the Work Shop area, past the back entry gate and storm water retention ponds, and over to the northeast property side to connect with the original 6’ wide trail near the Corwin Center [assisted living component] entrance. This section is relatively level but is constricted in width in some sections to only a couple of feet. But, it is a good experience in the woods that avoids needing to walk on the asphalt perimeter road and dodging the vehicle traffic. The complete encircling trail now has six access points. These are at the front gate, rose garden near building entrance #10, bus parking area, north side service road entrance, and two points near the Corwin Center (at both ends of the retention pond).


Workers on this phase were John Bailey [instigator and trail blazer], Tony Bohorfoush, Bob Brett, Jim Easley, Bill Franz, Ev Loyd, Andy Kruzich, Ben Nelson, Russ Smedley [major motivator, trail crew boss, and bridge engineer], Ed Smith, Tom Stoebe, and Jack Wright [chief architect and motorized mule driver]. The chief trail inspector is Dixie Gagnier who walks the trail daily and reports to Russ what work is needed. Resident work crews continue to work twice weekly on maintenance of the total trail [raking, removal of debris and fallen trees, and replacement of rotten border logs]. There is always the opportunity for new volunteers to help. Contact Russ Smedley at 425-868-1567.


In this satellite view the total trail route was recorded by a smart cell phone with the Google Android operating system using the ‘My Tracks’ application. The application produces a red marked trace on a Google map that can be uploaded to the internet and printed.




Ernie McKibben, who worked on the trail from 1997 through 2008, wrote lovingly of the monthly changes in the flowers and trees. In the Emerald Lights issue of November 2007 he referenced the 450 mile long Natchez Trace, a historic trail running from Nashville, Tennessee, to Natchez, Mississippi. The Natchez Trace is now a National Historic Parkway. Talk about small worlds, John Bailey was a newly commissioned US Public Health Service civil engineer on loan during its construction from 1957-1959 and lived at its National Park Service headquarters in Tupelo, MS.


Having written this article following review of 18 years of Emerald Lights issues, the Baileys suggest the entire trail be referred to as the “Emerald Heights Nature Trail.” Each name of the sections should be retained and clearly marked on the trail. It is truly all a nature trail of high quality befitting Emerald Heights! This article was written by John and Donna Bailey. For further information, John can be contacted at 425-301-3127.