The Friends of the Burke-Gilman Trail at Sand Point (FBGT @ SP) organization was set up early in 2007. The Center for Spiritual Living (CSL) had cut down a number of mature trees in February to make room for their new sanctuary and expanded parking lot. The building and cars were going to be very close to the trail so the only way to ameliorate the situation was to work with the Seattle Parks Department and Green Seattle Partnership to remove invasive plants such as blackberry and ivy and replace them with native trees and shrubs. FBGT at SP originally had members who were either neighbors very close to the trail or neighbors with special skills in native plant renewal projects.
FBGT at SP applied to the Department of Neighborhoods and received a Small and Simple Grant. These grants are awarded for projects which reconcile groups with different objectives, in this case the neighbors and the CSL. The money paid for plants, hosepipes and several days’ clearing work by Earth Corps. CSL provided water to help establish plants and many CSL members came out to the first work parties. Neighbors also came to clearing and planting work parties, making matching donations of their time and money.
The original goal of the project was quite modest. The objective was to clear and plant the area of Seattle Parks property beside the CSL buildings and their northern car park. However one individual wandered by and thought this was the project for him. He personally, along with the help of many people he has attracted to work with him, cleared a large area by 2010 completing the section from NE 65th St to 40th Ave NE.
About 1000 trees, shrubs and ferns were purchased with money from the Small and Simple Grant. The Washington Native Plant Society (WNPS) has also given grants for buying plants and they have donated plants left over from the WNPS sale. Green Seattle Partnership supplied many plants. Neighbors have donated cash and members of FBGTat SP have themselves purchased native plants for the project.
In the summer of 2008 FBGTat SP applied for and received permission from Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) to clear and plant the street ends at NE 60th St and 53 Ave NE. The initial phase of this project has been completed. Donations were solicited to put a bench and kiosk on this SDOT property close to the trail.
Clearing invasive plants and planting native trees, shrubs and ferns is not the end of the project. The area has to be maintained. It is almost impossible to dig out all the blackberry and ivy roots. And English broom seed and laurel spurge, for example, remain viable in the soil for many years. Weeding will have to be an ongoing process, although it should be less onerous after three years.
The greening of the Burke-Gilman Trail at Sand Point will create a more pleasant forest walk, run or bicycle ride for the many people who travel the trail. Increasing the number of native trees and shrubs will attract more birds, bats, insects, and perhaps small mammals. Increasing the number of plants will help to slow down global warming by sequestering carbon. Renovation of the Sand Point section of the trail will provide an example of what other groups could do for the rest of the trail.
Born as a Railroad
In 1885 Judge Thomas Burke, Daniel Gilman and ten other investors set out to establish a Seattle-based railroad so that the young city might win a place among major transportation centers and reap the economic benefits of trade. Their plan was to start along today's Burke-Gilman Trail route and go north to Sumas and connect with the Canadian Transcontinental line. Their Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern Railroad, though it never got past Arlington, Washington, was a major regional line serving Puget Sound logging areas. The line was aquired by Northern Pacific in 1913 and continued in fairly heavy use until 1963. The Great Northern, Northern Pacific, and Burlington lines were merged in 1970 to become Burlington Northern Railroad. In 1971 Burlington Northern applied to abandon the line.
A Multiple Use Trail
Citizens quickly recognized the non-motorized transportation and recreational potential in the railroad line and launched a movement to acquire the right-of-way for a public biking and walking trail. Objections from residents living near the proposed trail were overcome and the City of Seattle, the University of Washington and King County cooperated in developing the route. The original 12.1 miles of the trail connecting Seattle's Gas Works Park and King County's Tracy Owen Station in Kenmore were dedicated on August 19, 1978.
The trail was recently extended west through Seattle's Fremont neighborhood to Eighth Avenue NW. The trail also reaches east to Redmond by connecting with the Samammish River Trail.
A Major Urban Route
The Burke-Gilman Trail is an outstanding success and has been beneficial to the neighborhoods through which it passes. The trail has become a major transportation corridor that serves thousands of commuter and recreational cyclists. It demonstrates that when the proper facilities are provided many people will chose healthy, pollution-free, non-motorized modes of travel.
The trail can at times be busy and even crowded with cyclists, walkers, joggers and skaters. Busy periods require all users be especially watchful, cautious, and respectful of others. Fast cyclists must adjust their speed to suit the conditions or use alternative routes. All trail users must keep to the right.
(Seattle Department of Transportation)
Further bits of Burke-Gilman history can be found on
In the process of working on this section of the Burke-Gilman Trail, we have found that there were two farms. One was located to the west of the NE 53rd street end and the other was roughly where the Center for Spiritual Living is.
We have also found a section of rail, now grown into the root of a tree and a number of railroad ties and fastenings which held the rail to the railroad tie. Just before the trail turns to the west, there is a ramp of wood which may have been a loading dock for one of the farms.