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Hilltop Trail opens

Cordelia Banks, 3, plays with the ribbon on the recently raised  maypole at the Hilltop Trail.  Later, a group of island youth spun the ribbon around the maypole to commemorate the opening of the new trail connecting east and west Grand Forest parks. - Richard D. Oxley / Bainbridge Island Review
Cordelia Banks, 3, plays with the ribbon on the recently raised maypole at the Hilltop Trail. Later, a group of island youth spun the ribbon around the maypole to commemorate the opening of the new trail connecting east and west Grand Forest parks.
— image credit: Richard D. Oxley / Bainbridge Island Review

Bainbridge welcomed its newest addition to two of the island’s favorite parks Wednesday, ultimately bringing the Grand Forest trails together and creating a bigger, better park.

The Bainbridge Island Metro Park & Recreation District, along with the Bainbridge Island Land Trust, invited the community to celebrate the opening of the new park land and trail. With music, sunshine and fresh air, it was an opening sealed with many island smiles.

And for a good reason. The new Hilltop trail creates a vital corridor between the two expansive parks.

Whereas once the Grand Forest was split into east and west, each with its own set of trails frequented by islanders, now the parks are connected by a new corridor known as the Hilltop Trail.

“We finally have a piece of land that connects the east and west sides,” said Dan Hamlin, Parks Services Superintendent for the park district.

The new trail arches over a former horse pasture that boasts a postcard-perfect panorama of the Olympic Mountains.

The parks district celebrated the momentous achievement with an opening event May 1, complete with live folk music and a maypole dance.

Islanders couldn’t have asked for a better spring day to commemorate the moment. Children held ribbons as they skipped around the maypole, dogs rolled in the grass and islanders sat under a sunny blue sky. Many came out to tour the new trail on bike and foot.

This week’s celebration was the culmination of nearly three years’ worth of efforts by not only the parks district, but also the Bainbridge Island Land Trust.

The land trust initially began purchasing the property in 2010. Overall, the addition to the Grand Forest comprises 36 acres.

The parks district will manage the park and the new trail. If things go as planned, the park will eventually come under park district ownership.

Val Tollefson, a member of the land trust, noted that the land boasts a very unique and healthy forest, as well as multiple wetlands.

“Our goal, from the land trust’s perspective, is to protect those things,” he said.

The land trust purchased the property from private owners with donations from islanders.

But the nonprofit’s work is not yet complete. So far, the trust has raised approximately 90 percent of the funds needed to fully pay for the land. It still needs $360,000 to reach its funding goal.

Those interested in contributing to the purchase of Hilltop can contact the land trust. Details can be found at www.bi-landtrust.org.

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