Focused on maintenance, community engagement
Just over three months into the job, Methow Valley Trails Collaborative’s first and only employee is working to create a sustainable future for the organization.
Since late April, Allen Jircik has served as trails manager for the Methow Valley Trails Collaborative, a nonprofit focused connecting community advocacy groups and land managers to collaborate on trail stewardship in the Methow Valley. The collaborative has completed various projects, including restoration work at Riser Lake, Lewis Butte and Buck Mountain. Jircik said he hopes his new role will help create important momentum for the organization, whose membership is completely volunteer-based.
“The steering committee, and everyone who’s dedicated anything to the Collaborative, has been dedicating their free time and their energies and their expertise, which is invaluable,” Jircik said. “But the reality of it is, all of these individuals are volunteering their time, and they have their own livelihoods and organizations to support. So now, there’s someone whose full-time job it is to focus on issues [like] trail maintenance, and sharing information and helping to grow the organization.”
The organization is comprised of members and partners, including the Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance, Methow Valley Snowmobile Association, Loup Loup Ski Education Foundation, Washington Trails Association, Methow Conservancy, Winthrop Chamber of Commerce, Methow Trails, Methow Valley Back Country Horsemen and Rendezvous Huts, as well as Pearrygin Lake State Park, the U.S. Forest Service Methow Ranger District and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Methow Wildlife Area.
Jircik said his position is funded through Dec. 31 by a Title II grant, for which Methow Trails is a fiscal sponsor. A big part of his job is building relationships with new and existing partners to help grow the collaborative and keep the position going.
Working with partners
Another component of the job is working with partners and volunteers on field-based projects.
For the past three weeks, Jircik has been facilitating work on the new Lightning Creek Trail bridge on the middle fork of Beaver Creek. Jircik said the surrounding area was burned in the 2006 Tripod Complex Fire, causing many trees to fall and accumulate in the creek. Those wood accumulations have led to increased erosion.
The old Lightning Creek Trail bridge was removed by a Forest Service crew in 2020 due to concerns over how close the 25-foot-long structure was to the stream, which can rise up to 4 feet early in the season. Jircik said the hope is for the new bridge to last longer and offer a safer route for hikers, cyclists, horseback riders and motorized mountain bikers crossing the creek to get to the Lightning Creek and Blue Buck Trails.
On July 7, volunteers from the Northwest Motorcycle Association helped fell three trees near the creek to be used as 40-foot stringer logs for the new bridge. On subsequent weekends, other volunteer work parties helped strip the bark off the logs, place them on sills and build the bridge.
The project has also seen the support of professional crews from Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance and the Forest Service, funding for materials from the Forest Service, and help from the Methow Valley Back Country Horsemen in carrying dimensional lumber to the site.
Jircik will also help oversee work on the Williams Creek Trail in August, where local and state chapters of the Backcountry Horsemen have hired a Washington Conservation Corps crew and Northwest Youth Corps crew, respectively, to address outslope and widen the trail.
Looking to the fall, Jircik said he hopes to revive Save-a-Trail, a community-based program focused on bringing together volunteers and organizations to restore a high-use trail in the valley.
“I’m excited to bring it back to give people that opportunity and that sense of shared stewardship and community,” Jircik said. “You’re connecting with other people who are interested in recreating outdoors and interested in taking a Saturday or a day of work and getting your hands dirty, and getting a little bit of investment in the area that you recreate.”
Save-a-Trail projects are chosen by the Methow Valley Trails Collaborative based on community input. Based on his preliminary conversations with the collaborative’s steering committee and the Forest Service trails manager, Jircik said he’s hoping to work on Driveway Butte Trail #481.
Jircik said those interested in getting involved with the Methow Valley Trails Collaborative can stay tuned on the collaborative’s website, https://trailscollaborative.org, for volunteer opportunities, and attend the organization’s public meeting in September.
“Realistically, the reason so many people like to live and recreate [in the Methow Valley] is the wonderful access to the outdoors that we have,” Jircik said. “So it’s important that we can take care of that access together and have good conversations about it.”