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A path to follow

Master Gardener John Mikesell, with his dog Chloe by his side, shows the native plant display found along the Anna Smith Park nature trail. Master Gardeners will give small group tours along the trail to show off the plants native to the Pacific Northwest. - Photo by Jesse Beals
Master Gardener John Mikesell, with his dog Chloe by his side, shows the native plant display found along the Anna Smith Park nature trail. Master Gardeners will give small group tours along the trail to show off the plants native to the Pacific Northwest.
— image credit: Photo by Jesse Beals

By RACHEL BRANT

Staff writer

Want to see an Indian plum, skunk cabbage or devil’s club?

Look no further than Anna Smith Park on Tracyton Boulevard in Bremerton.

Master Gardeners has been working on a nature trail throughout a portion of the county park for about six years. The elevated boardwalk winds through a wooded section of the park and showcases various native plants ranging from salmonberry to Pacific ninebark and everything in between.

“All the stuff we see in here I’ve planted over the past five or so years,” said Master Gardener John Mikesell.

Mikesell began cutting back blackberries years ago and saw the potential for a nature trail at Anna Smith Park.

“We cleaned it out and saw this little creek down here and thought ‘wow, this is really neat, let’s put a trail in here,’” he said.

A local teen created a section of the wooden boardwalk as part of his Eagle Scout project a few years ago and Mikesell, with a little help from the CK and Silverdale Kiwanis, began building the rest of the boardwalk. The nature trail opens with a wooden bridge spanning over a small creek. The bridge was created from trees that were overturned in a tornado that ripped through Kitsap County in the 1990s.

The raised boardwalk provides a nice walkway through the wetland area. Mikesell and other Master Gardeners will lead small groups of up to eight people through the trail and discuss the plants native to the Pacific Northwest. Mikesell said many people do not know which plants are native to the area and the nature trail is a way to “get the public to appreciate the value of native plants.”

“When you buy a piece of undeveloped property, native plants are the things you whack, get rid of, to make room for other plants,” Mikesell said.

After years of hard work, someone recently vandalized the Anna Smith Park nature trail. The culprit or culprits brought in heavy equipment and knocked over native plants along the trail, leaving the discarded plants strewn about the trail. Mikesell contacted Kitsap County Parks & Recreation and was told the department did not destroy the plants, but the Master Gardeners are still searching for the culprit(s).

“Why they felt they had to destroy all that, I have no clue,” Mikesell said. “Now it’s just a mess I have to clean up. As far as I’m concerned this is vandalism.”

The Master Gardeners are at Anna Smith Park from 9 a.m. to noon every Wednesday working on their demonstration garden and nature trail. Mikesell said other Master Gardeners groups are creating nature trails in other parks.

“It seems to be a standard thing we do,” he said.

Mikesell plans to build more boardwalk this summer and fix up the mess the vandals created. He has already given some tours and will continue to do so as long as there is an interest.

Mikesell said he also hopes to label each native plant on the trail and give a brief history of them along with how the native people used the plants.

“We have a small area, but there’s a lot of neat things in here and once we get it all worked out it’ll be really nice,” Mikesell said.

To schedule a guided tour of the nature trail at Anna Smith Park in Bremerton or for more information about Master Gardeners, contact Peg Tillery, horticulture coordinator at the WSU Kitsap County Extension office at (360) 337-7224.

To have gardening questions answered, call the Master Gardeners Hotline at (360) 337-7158.

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