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Caring for Our Trails: Issaquah Alps Trails Club

By April 28, 2022Connections
Issaquah Alps Trails Club guided hike

In Spring 2022 Connections, we profiled organizations that do critical work to maintain and preserve our trails; this is the fourth article in this series. Consider how you can do your part to help protect our trails for current and future generations. 

How has the Issaquah Alps Trails Club (IATC) worked to preserve trails in Issaquah Highlands?

Founded in 1979 by Harvey Manning, the mission of the Issaquah Alps Trails Club (IATC) is to preserve, protect, and promote the Issaquah Alps by leading hikes, maintaining trails, and advocating for land conservation. The Issaquah Alps is a connected landscape that stretches from Lake Washington to the Cascade Mountains. In addition to Cougar, Squak, and Tiger mountains, the Issaquah Alps include parts of Rattlesnake and Taylor mountains, plus Grand Ridge Park adjacent to Issaquah Highlands.

In the early 2000s, IATC joined other local conservation groups in favor of the then-proposed Issaquah Highlands community, deciding a dense, urban village that preserves four acres of open space for every one acre to be developed was better than hundreds of private 5-acre lots with no public access. As a result, today’s forested hillsides of King County’s Grand Ridge Park and city of Issaquah lands offer Issaquah Highland’s residents access to nature and trails, making it one of the most desirable and popular places to live and raise a family.

How does IATC partner with King County and/or the city of Issaquah to preserve local trails?

Today, IATC’s mission is necessary more than ever. Within the Issaquah Alps, unfriendly development threatens sensitive wildlands and streams, close-in forested lands are being sized up for logging, and trails have deteriorated, some blocked by forest practices. Some areas are being “loved to death” by the crush of unprecedented growth in the popularity of outdoor recreation.

In addition to King County and the city of Issaquah, IATC partners with the Washington State Department of Natural Resources, Washington State Parks, Mountains To Sound Greenway Trust, and private landowners to address these issues. IATC also supports the Snoqualmie Tribe’s Ancestral Lands Movement and the respect, restoration, and protection they seek for their ancestral lands, which include the Issaquah Alps.

How can Issaquah Highlands residents get involved with IATC to preserve our local trails?

As a charitable, nonprofit organization, IATC relies on the generosity of individuals and grants. People can get involved with our work by joining us on hikes, volunteering for special projects, attending our public forums, or supporting our advocacy efforts. By following us online or subscribing to our newsletter, people can watch our calendar and sign-up for hikes and other events.

Recently we have led educational hikes about native and invasive plants on the nearby Lake Tradition Plateau, plus others on city of Issaquah lands adjacent to Issaquah Highlands that explored whether new trails or preservation just for wildlife was the best way to go. We are also working with the Highlands Youth Advisory Board to plan a variety of hikes to help young people connect with our amazing lands and find new ways to make the outdoors a natural part of their lives.

Why is advocating for our local trails important for the future of our community?

Today, we all benefit from the foresight and courage of many who worked to preserve and protect the Issaquah Alps; however, the tremendous growth in our area will continue for decades to come, and the pressure to develop our open spaces will continue. Ironically, this area’s popularity is due, in part, to the success of our preservation efforts. People want and deserve safe, natural outdoor areas, and the lands and wildlife deserve it too. IATC remains dedicated to the Issaquah Alps and invites Issaquah Highland’s residents to join us outdoors, online, or in the community to benefit existing and future generations.

Photo: In March 2022, IATC led a native plant identification hike on the Ruth Kees Big Tree Trail on the Lake Tradition Plateau. 

Paul Winterstein is the IATC executive director and a former Issaquah City Council member.