Clear Creek beckons with a trail for all seasons

About 30 years ago, a tall slender fellow named Tex Lewis wandered into the Silverdale Chamber of Commerce to see what was going on in town that he could sink his teeth into. He was asked if he’d paint the office. Not exactly what he had in mind, but he picked up a brush anyway. He was joined in the effort by former Chamber President Paul Brittain, who mentioned his plan for a new trail along the city’s meandering creek. Tex, being a runner, envisioned a new exercise route, and jumped aboard.

Thus the Clear Creek Task Force was formed as two men committed to a 25-year project: creating the now well-traveled Clear Creek Trail through downtown Silverdale and well beyond. Construction began on Earth Day, 1995. Early on, a small barn was donated and renovated to become the trail’s anchor.

Today, I’m starting at the “red barn” near the mouth of Clear Creek where it enters Dyes Inlet: the south end of a nearly eight-mile trail involving years of blood, sweat, and hundreds of citizens who donated money, equipment and labor. Here at low tide, Dyes Inlet lays out a banquet for bald eagles, great blue herons, greater yellow-legs, and other feathered seafood lovers. Kill-deer and winter migrants like the green-winged teal are drawn to the banquet in the mudflats.

Silverdale, once known for its shopping malls, may be more famous today for the tree-cloaked trail I’m embarking on. For much of the way, you’d never know you were “downtown,” except for light traffic sounds softened by thick greenery. A medical building on my right is almost invisible, only its roofline peeking from behind tall willowy trees in full blossom.

Back in the ‘90s, once the trail plan was drafted, few dollars were left for the project itself; the dedicated work group was on its own. Supplies like rakes, shovels and wheelbarrows were acquired from endless garage sales; a hundred eager students from nearby schools were recruited to move gravel onto a network of laid-out trails; the students seemed happy with their reimbursement: burritos donated by Taco Bell. (Local students helped the project right to the finish, and are still involved to this day.)

Time to eat! After a lunch stop at a creek-side picnic table, I’ve left the “city portion” of the route; I’m now strolling on a wide boardwalk through a wilderness of ponds large and small, some joined by streams, all cloaked by mature foliage and towering trees. Birds of all types are drawn to the storm-water retention ponds here at the north edge of town. Cattails are nesting sites for red-wing blackbirds, and hummingbirds use the cattail fluff to line their nests. The quiet waters attract mallards, bufflehead ducks, Canada geese, and other species.

To continue on, one crosses Silverdale Way at a stoplight beneath the freeway, and joins the trail again, strolling beside Clear Creek as it winds through a broad valley, a popular route for dog-walkers. For great views and more hilly terrain, another route heads east from the bowling alley to an old homestead and eventually to the new hospital campus.

Today the Clear Creek Trail stands as a monument to Tex and Paul and the many generous folks who supported the creation of a unique urban trail, perhaps one of a kind in our county.

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