A Lasting Monument for Corvallis
Jessica McDonald is the Development Director for the Greenbelt Land Trust. The Greenbelt Land Trust is a Corvallis based non profit land conservation organization focused on protecting ecologically, agriculturally, and historically significant lands in Oregon's mid-Willamette Valley. Greenbelt works to secure significant natural areas, linking protected natural areas with parks and public spaces to provide wildlife corridors, protect valuable natural resources, and expand opportunities for low-impact recreation and renewal.
Conservation Biology Institute appreciates the work they do in our local community.
Twenty-five years ago, a dedicated group of everyday people formed Greenbelt Land Trust, a non-profit organization that protects special lands and rivers in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. They saw imminent changes facing the Willamette Valley, from a decrease in open spaces amid the pressures of population growth, to dwindling fish populations and oak savannas. Today, the Greenbelt Land Trust is viewed as a conservation leader in western Oregon, ensuring clean water, healthy landscapes and wildlife corridors, and access to nature for future generations.
Greenbelt Land Trust has celebrated countless successes, from preserving critical habitat for the endangered Fender’s blue butterfly, to restoring over a thousand acres of Willamette River riparian areas, safeguarding backchannel refugia for our native fish populations. While these habitat conservation victories are the backbone of Greenbelt Land Trust’s work, we are also dedicated to preserving people-centered places and experiences. It’s about the child gleefully digging in the cold mud on a tree planting workday, or the family taking their first wobbly steps into a canoe for a float along the Willamette River. It’s also about building new trails that offer opportunities for reflection and solitude.
On September 27th, 2014 Greenbelt Land Trust celebrated the dedication of a new trail just west of Corvallis. For three decades our community had envisioned the Mulkey Ridge Trail, a key connecting pathway between Bald Hill Natural Area and Fitton Green Natural Area that would create an unbroken rail corridor of over 14 miles, but it was always just out of our reach.
In 2013 the organization received a major boost from trails advocates Andrew and Lauralee Martin, who purchased the 170 acre property that held the key to this trail connection. While Greenbelt Land Trust worked to secure the grant funding needed to acquire the property, the Martins granted a trail easement across the property, allowing the trail building to begin. Hear from landowner Lauralee Martin speaking about her motivation to work on trail connections in the mid-Valley at the trail dedication HERE.
This past summer, dedicated crews of volunteers worked nearly every weekend to build the connector under the supervision of experienced trail advisors. Hundreds of volunteers and staff from Greenbelt Land Trust and Benton County, and teens from the Northwest Youth Corps worked steadily on the 1.5 mile section of trail. Wielding trail tools like pulaskis and rogue hoes, volunteers chipped away at the ridge trail, foot by foot. After countless volunteer hours, a few bee stings, and baths of tecnu, the trail that was 30 years in the making was finally a reality.
On September 27, 2014 I stood atop Fitton Green and took in the scene as we cut the ribbon on the new Mulkey Ridge Trail. Over a hundred friends and trail lovers lounged on the hillside in the September sun, listening to the dedication and preparing for the 2 mile trek. After the hike was over and the shuttle buses left to deliver the hikers home, I dawdled on the porch, not yet ready to say goodbye to the day. As I sat with the sound of Mulkey Creek trickling beside me, I couldn't help but think back to all of the handwritten letters back at the office stuffed into manila folders in our file cabinet, delicate reminders of decades of correspondence and of all of the people who worked to make the Mulkey Ridge Trail possible. There are notes scrawled on miniature notepads, holiday cards from trail enthusiasts, and finally copies of emails dating back to a time before Gmail. I thought of all of the people who toiled over the planning and design of the trail, and I thought about the countless people who will enjoy it today, tomorrow, and forever.
Among the multitude of letters in that manila folder was one written by Charlie Ross, a long time Oregon State University Extension Forester and founding member of the Greenbelt Land Trust. He writes that "a trail could wind through this property on the upper reaches and be a lasting monument for Corvallis. We will be leaving a connection for our successors, atop a vista spanning the Valley. This is the Greenbelt vision, and we will be there someday." Charlie penned these words 22 years ago, and on a Saturday in late September, alongside elders, children, parents, bicyclists, and trail runners, I saw this dream come true.