More than just horses

Washington Trail Riders Association contributed more than 400 volunteer hours

Previous Next

WTRA events

For more information about the group, visit “Washington Trail Riders Association” on Facebook, call Leith Dist at 931-0765 or e-mail

Upcoming events:

Pick Up the Burn, Saturday, May 7 at the Jones Creek Trailhead. Registration begins at 8 a.m., followed by a safety briefing and coffee and doughnuts at 9 a.m. An appreciation lunch and raffle for all volunteers will begin at 2 p.m. For more information, contact Jason Lenz at the Department of Natural Resources, 356-0535 or

Rock Creek Campground Trail Challenge: Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 20 and 21, Rock Creek Campground, 312 N.E. 312th Ave. Check in begins at 7 a.m., and there will be awards and lunch after the rides. Prices are $27 for a companion rider, $27 for a student rider and $54 for an adult competitor. The event is a fundraiser hosted by the WTRA. All funds will be used for trail maintenance. For more information, contact Dist.

When Annmarie Ertolacci and her husband moved to Camas last year, they weren’t the only ones who needed help navigating the new area.

Their horses, Buck and Chili, escaped from their Livingston Mountain home. Thankfully, members of the Washington Trail Riders Association were able to find the wayward wanderers.

“We picked them up the next day and immediately joined the WTRA,” Ertolacci said. “It goes to show you how many people care about the horses and care about other horse people. Joining was a no-brainer.”

Longtime WTRA member Barbara Thomas is on a 911 contact list in the event of wandering equines, so she received the call regarding the missing horses.

“It is kind of a neat story about how it brought Annmarie to our group,” she said.

Thomas, who serves as secretary for the WTRA, noted that this is one example of how the group has branched out from members who are interested in horses.

In 2015, the WTRA organized three work parties on trails and camps at Battle Ground Lake, Rock Creek Campground and Kalama, contributing approximately 400 volunteer hours.

They work alongside other user groups such as the Back Country Horsemen, Pacific Endurance Riders, Chinook Trails Association and Washington Trails Association.

“I really believe this organization contributes through trail work, and also brings people together who want to ride and exchange information,” she said.

On Saturday, the WTRA was recognized by the Washington State Parks for 2015 Outstanding Group Contribution for their volunteer work.

“Expanding our volunteerism out is really the influence of the Back Country Horsemen,” Thomas said. “Before, our efforts were scattered. Once we decided to combine forces, we were really able to get things done. We would not be able to do a lot of this work otherwise.”

She noted that it is the first time the group has been formally recognized for its volunteer efforts.

“It feels really good,” she said. “The more the groups coordinate, the more the public learns.”

The next big group effort will be at the Department of Natural Resources “Pick Up the Burn,” event on Saturday, May 7 at the Jones Creek Trailhead.

“What we actually do is remove trash, sofas and equipment that has bee illegally dumped in the Yacolt Burn,” Thomas said. “Last year this event had over 100 participants from equine, hiker, motorized and firearm groups.”

Working together

The WTRA was formed in 1979 at the suggestion of the founder of Back Country Horsemen Association, Ken Wilcox, so that the two clubs would be affiliated and work together.

“This was the start of a beautiful working relationship between the WTRA and the BCH Mt. St. Helen’s chapter,” Thomas said. “WTRA members have worked on the trails at Battle Ground Lake for over 20 years.”

Approximately 15 years ago, several members of WTRA, along with Battle Ground Lake staff applied for and received a $10,000 grant to harden the trails and make them usable year round.

“In this area, Battle Ground Lake is well known to the horse community as one of the few trails you can ride in winter and continues to be the heaviest used trail in this area,” Thomas said. “The horses used to sink down 8 inches in some places. We filled in everything with gravel and plantings, but the more improvements we made, the more people used it so more needed to be done.”

Five years ago, Thomas noticed that she and two other members of BCH seemed to show up at the same trail work parties and were cross members of both WTRA and BCH.

“We formed a committee of ‘trail work party boss’ between the two clubs and started having joint work parties,” she said. “Then, we started meeting other user groups like CTA, and WTA, who were like minded in keeping trails open and user friendly.

She continued, “This was the beginning of an idea to form a multi-user trail work party system that combined the talents of equestrians and hikers, and even at some work parties, the mountain bikers.”

Gayle Garson-Corpe of Washougal joined the WTRA in 2000 after moving back to the area from Utah.

“I liked the idea of like-minded horse people and found a great, friendly group who welcome everyone and know the trails,” she said. “We share knowledge and information and some pretty good food. The club also has a hand in trail and campground maintenance. All in all, it’s a good group to be a part of.”

Terri Anderson of Washougal joined the WTRA in 2015 and describes members as “fun to spend time with and very active at maintaining trails.”

“They provide a great balance between the seriousness of working with land managers and other user groups to keep trails open, and having fun participating in local area rides,” she said.