‘Eyes and ears’ of the trails

Local volunteer group helps maintain trails, educates other users

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“There are a lot of [unauthorized trails] in Lacamas Park, and right now the Trail Alignment Committee is in the process of figuring out what the actual trails are. Once that goes through, it will be easier to host trail maintenance work parties.”

— Sean Vergillo, Lacamas Trails Advocacy Group

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For more information, visit Lacamas Trails Advocacy Group on Facebook.

You’ll see them out on the local trails, picking up garbage, removing fallen tree branches, helping to fill in ruts and potholes, and doing whatever maintenance they can.

The Lacamas Trails Advocacy Group is a loosely knit organization of about 400 people who walk, bike, hike and run the trails at Lacamas Creek, Round Lake, Fallen Leaf Lake and Lacamas Lake. They’re volunteers, who maintain the trails out of concern for the safety of other users, the health of the forests, and a love of nature, according to group members.

Since the group formed in 2012, they have logged more than 460 hours at the parks.

Sean Vergillo, the group’s organizer, is a 15 year Camas resident and a longtime trail user.

“We would love to have more people join our efforts,” he said. “Volunteers are always welcome. If everyone pitches in, we all benefit.”

Currently, about 90 percent of the volunteers are trail bicycle riders who travel with a handsaw or McLeoud rake, a portable, two-sided blade on a long, wooden-handle. It can remove slough and berm from a trail, tamp or compact tread, and can shape a trail’s backslope.

“Mainly, we are just going out as individuals and talking care of issues as we see them,” Vergillo said. “We’re interested in keeping the parks in good shape.”

The group was formed in the Camas Bike and Sport store after a meeting with its owner, Ed Fischer, and Clark County Public Works Volunteer Program Coordinator Karen Llewellyn.

“We have a very limited budget for trail work and maintenance at Lacamas Regional Park,” Llewellyn said. “The volunteer work that the advocacy group completes is critical for keeping the trails in good condition for the public to enjoy. In addition to trail maintenance, the group acts as eyes on the park and reminds fellow trail users of proper trail etiquette.”

Vergillo noted that one of the biggest problems are users who create unauthorized trails, which then are used by others and can harm the natural area.

“There are a lot of these in Lacamas Park, and right now the Trail Alignment Committee is in the process of figuring out what the actual trails are,” he said. “Once that goes through, it will be easier to host trail maintenance work parties.”

Other common issues of concern are related to drainage and overuse. These problems are generated by an influx of users, which requires more trail maintenance.

Vergillo has logged many volunteer hours, both as a Camas Parks Commission member and trail advocacy organizer. But it’s worth it to this longtime trail rider and runner.

“I used to come out to this area before there were any houses on the hill,” he said. “There were trails everywhere. I like to work on trails. I will choose that rather than a run or ride. What I like least is all the coordinating. You can’t please everybody.”

He is seeking volunteers to help with the logistics, particularly after the trail alignment is completed.

Volunteer Sandra Alex has been walking the trails since 1991.

“I have walked every day since August 2008,” she said. “For years, I was saddened to see the deterioration of the park trails, some through overuse, and some through abuse. A few years ago, I began to notice improvements, as well as some new excellent access trails. One day, I saw a sign at the park entrance for Lacamas Trails Advocacy Group.”

Shortly afterwards, she met Vergillo on one of her hikes.

“He was killing himself to put in a new drainage pipe in a spot that has traditionally been swamped with every heavy rain event,” Alex recalled. “Sean is an incredibly hard worker, and is dedicated to making our park a place to be proud of.”

She noted that becoming part of the Lacamas Trails Advocacy Group has provided opportunities to connect with fellow trail users.

“I have found opportunities to contribute, share information, or just commiserate,” Alex said. “As Camas and Clark County continue to grow and expand, our park is busier than ever. Groups like this one assure that we are being good guardians of our treasured natural resources.”

Jarred Jackman, a trail runner, hiker and mountain biker, joined the group as an advocate for green space and singletrack trails in and around Camas.

“I continue to work with the group, the city, and the county in the hopes that our remaining green spaces will be left as forests with a large network of connected trails rather than a diced up network of poorly designed houses and neighborhoods,” he said. “I sincerely hope Camas’ residents and planners realize how vital these green spaces are to our/their way of life.”

He continued, “I enjoy seeing people recreating on trails I have built or helped to maintain. To know that my time as a volunteer allows people to access the outdoors in a healthy manner is very rewarding. To know that my advocacy might help create a larger area of trails the citizens of our entire county can be proud of is an opportunity not to pass up.”