Old Military Road Trail

Posted July 11, 2019 at 5:05 pm by

A trail at English Camp near the original Old Military Road - Tim Dustrude photo

On June 13, a group of San Juan Islanders met with the Board of San Juan Island Park and Recre­ation Dis­trict (Island Rec) seek­ing to be rec­og­nized as an offi­cial com­mit­tee of Island Rec to explore the fea­si­bil­i­ty of cre­at­ing a new trail con­nect­ing the two camps of San Juan Island Nation­al His­tor­i­cal Park – Eng­lish Camp and Amer­i­can Camp. The Island Rec Board approved and The Old Mil­i­tary Road Trail Com­mit­tee was born.

This Old Mil­i­tary Road Trail would hon­or the his­toric road used by Cowichan First Nation peo­ples, fol­lowed by the Hud­son Bay Com­pa­ny in the 1850s, and lat­er as a link between posts dur­ing the joint mil­i­tary occu­pa­tion of the island by British and Amer­i­can forces.

While the goal of this project is to fol­low the his­toric route when pos­si­ble, parts of the mod­ern-day trail will like­ly devi­ate from the orig­i­nal road for a cou­ple of reasons:

  • First, over the course of its life­time, the actu­al route of the Old Mil­i­tary Road changed a num­ber of times due to var­i­ous social, polit­i­cal and eco­nom­ic forces. As such there real­ly is no one cor­rect route.
  • Sec­ond, any route across the island will encounter mul­ti­ple juris­dic­tions of pri­vate and pub­lic lands, so there will need to be a range of options for a re-cre­at­ed route of the Old Mil­i­tary Road.

The Com­mit­tee is work­ing to design a col­lab­o­ra­tive pub­lic plan­ning process and fos­ter sol­id com­mu­ni­ty par­tic­i­pa­tion to devel­op a range of options across these mul­ti­ple jurisdictions.

A segment of the original Old Military Road crossed the current location of Zylstra Lake - Tim Dustrude photo

The Com­mit­tee antic­i­pates a num­ber of ben­e­fits to the San Juan Island com­mu­ni­ty from the devel­op­ment and imple­men­ta­tion of this trail:

  • First, it will pro­vide a safe, recre­ation­al cor­ri­dor across San Juan Island for pedes­tri­ans, bicy­cles and pos­si­bly eques­tri­an use on some sec­tions, expand­ing access to out­door recre­ation and pro­mot­ing healthy lifestyles and improved safe­ty for walk­ers, cyclists, hik­ers, and jog­gers by pro­vid­ing an off-road route across San Juan Island.
  • This trail will cel­e­brate local his­to­ry and enhance the enjoy­ment and mis­sion of the San Juan Island Nation­al His­tor­i­cal Park and the San Juan His­tor­i­cal Society.
  • It will engage our youth by pro­vid­ing a nov­el con­nec­tion to the nat­ur­al world. It will pro­vide a new venue for edu­ca­tion­al field trips, com­mu­ni­ty recre­ation­al events, and stew­ard­ship sites for the local youth con­ser­va­tion corps.
  • This endeav­or will con­tin­ue to sup­port the cur­rent coop­er­a­tion between local land con­ser­va­tion groups who already work in a coor­di­nat­ed fash­ion to pro­tect wildlife habi­tat, to reestab­lish native flo­ra, to erad­i­cate inva­sive species, to pre­serve nat­ur­al wet­lands, and to con­serve the nat­ur­al beau­ty and unique char­ac­ter of the Island.
  • This “back­bone” trail will com­ple­ment the main goal of the San Juan Island Trails plan of 2006, devel­oped with tech­ni­cal assis­tance from the Nation­al Park Ser­vice: to cre­ate a net­work of inter­con­nect­ed trails to major des­ti­na­tions on San Juan Island.
  • Final­ly, the Old Mil­i­tary Road Trail project will ben­e­fit the Nation­al Park Ser­vice by cel­e­brat­ing his­to­ry, by link­ing two geo­graph­i­cal­ly sep­a­rate units of the San Juan Island Nation­al His­tor­i­cal Park, and by high­light­ing 21st cen­tu­ry Park priorities.

The Com­mit­tee is grow­ing in num­ber but is cur­rent­ly com­prised of Dave Zeret­zke, Todd Kaden, Robin Don­nel­ly, Boyd Pratt, Mike Vouri, Louise Dus­trude, Tim Dus­trude, Jeff Gillette and Pam Gillette.

Orga­ni­za­tions that have sub­mit­ted let­ters of sup­port include: Island Rec, the Nation­al Park Ser­vice, San Juan Preser­va­tion Trust, San Juan Coun­ty Land Bank, Roche Har­bor Resort, Coun­ty Coun­cil­man Bill Wat­son and Saltchuk Properties.

The first order of busi­ness is to apply for a grant from the Rivers, Trails and Con­ser­va­tion Assis­tance (RTCA) Pro­gram of the Nation­al Park Ser­vice for tech­ni­cal assis­tance in 2020 to aid with devel­op­ment of a fea­si­bil­i­ty study and strate­gic plan to devel­op a real­is­tic route for this 12 to 17 mile, mul­ti-use trail.

If accept­ed, the RTCA Pro­gram will help to fos­ter sol­id com­mu­ni­ty par­tic­i­pa­tion and to cement sup­port for the resul­tant strate­gic plan from part­ner agen­cies, local busi­ness­es, and individuals.

The strate­gic plan will set forth the first phase of major steps to gain resources, con­struct, and open a seg­ment of the new trail by 2022 in time to cel­e­brate the 150th anniver­sary of Kaiser Wil­helm I’s famous arbi­tra­tion deci­sion grant­i­ng San Juan Island to the Unit­ed States.

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  1. I first heard about the Old Mil­i­tary Road from my uncle Einar Nielsen, Coun­ty Com­mis­sion­er in the late 70’s, he had the same idea for a cross island trail! I’m hap­py to see the revival of this concept!

    Comment by Darcie Nielsen on July 12, 2019 at 9:17 am
  2. This is very excit­ing! I can imag­ine our great-great grand­fa­ther, Robert Firth, used this road from his Belle Vue Sheep Farm (at present day Amer­i­can Camp). I always thought of it as The Old Peace Road since the “war” part of the Pig War nev­er hap­pened. Potlucks and par­ties between the two sides, instead of fight­ing — what a con­cept! This Old Mil­i­tary Road project is a won­der­ful idea!

    Comment by Shaun Hubbard on July 14, 2019 at 8:21 am
  3. What a great idea! This is long over­due. Hav­ing bicy­cles, pedes­tri­ans, dog walk­ers off the coun­ty roads would be a huge improve­ment. Just saw an aid car with a downed bicy­clist this past week­end along Bail­er Hill Rd. This will help improve the safe­ty on our island. Let’s make it happen!

    Comment by Jennifer Evans on July 14, 2019 at 7:49 pm

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