CK Faces: Family ties to the trail

Mary Best Zabinski serves as the new Clear Creek Task Force administrator. Her grandfather built the original barn that is now the Clear Creek Interpretive Center. - Photo by Jesse Beals
Mary Best Zabinski serves as the new Clear Creek Task Force administrator. Her grandfather built the original barn that is now the Clear Creek Interpretive Center.
— image credit: Photo by Jesse Beals

The big red barn that stands at the mouth of the Clear Creek Trail holds special meaning to Mary Best Zabinski.

Her grandfather, Kirk Best, built the original barn in 1950 and the Clear Creek Task Force administrator loves to visit the barn and surrounding estuary where her father, Phil Best, grew up.

“We would always drive by the barn and he would tell us where he would milk the cows,” Zabinski said with a smile. “It’s fun for me to be able to come back to the barn.”

Zabinski recently became the Clear Creek Task Force administrator. The previous administrator, Coreen Haydock Johnson, took on a full-time position as executive director of the Port Orchard Chamber of Commerce and Zabinski stepped in to fill the role.

“Part of what I’m doing is figuring out what our organization is doing and where we’re going in the future,” Zabinski said. “I value the type of organization this is.”

Tex Lewis, Clear Creek Task Force co-chair, said Johnson is “quite busy” fulfilling her duties at the Port Orchard Chamber of Commerce, but hopes she will continue to volunteer with the task force.

“We had a wonderful relationship with Coreen and we hope she’ll stay with us in a volunteer capacity,” he said.

Although he is sad to see Johnson leave the position, Lewis is delighted to have Zabinski take on the role.

“I could not think of a better person to step into this role,” he said. “She’s just jumped in and has done a marvelous job.”

Zabinski grew up in Seabeck, moved to Chico and graduated from Central Kitsap High School 30 years after her parents received diplomas from the same high school. She moved to New York and graduated from Bard College. She worked as director of finance for a nonprofit television station in New York for seven years and decided she wanted to move back to her hometown.

“Somewhere between 15 and 20 years, I was away from Kitsap County and there were a lot of changes,” Zabinski said. “But there was one section I recognized and that was the Clear Creek Trail.”

Zabinski has been a Clear Creek Trail volunteer for almost two years and enjoys visiting the trail and barn with her two daughters, 7-year-old Aina and 4-year-old Kate. The girls spend lots of time playing under the redwood tree beside the Clear Creek Interpretive Center that their great-uncle, Mike Best, planted years ago.

“They come to the trail with me all the time,” Zabinski said with a smile. “They have a special spot under the big redwood tree near the barn.”

Zabinski helped organize the task force’s National Trails Day events in June and started various children’s programs such as the Discovery Play Dates. She hopes to create more children’s events involving the trail in the future.

“My favorite thing as a kid was being outside just doing nothing,” Zabinski said. “It’s important to have a spot where kids can do that. (The kids) feel like it’s their place which all the kids in Kitsap should feel that way.”

With her background in finance, Zabinski is working on the financial aspects of the task force including bookkeeping, setting up grants and searching for donors.

“My background is finance so I’m helping create a system for their bookkeeping,” she said.

The Clear Creek Task Force is always looking for people to maintain the trail and help with other activities. For trail and task force information, visit their Web site at

“The cool thing about the task force is that it takes everybody to make it happen,” Zabinski said. “We’re looking for more people who have time to volunteer.”

Zabinski said the Clear Creek Trail runs “right through the heart of Silverdale” and she hopes to spend many years volunteering for the Clear Creek Task Force.

“I plan to stick with the trail until I’m an old lady,” Zabinski said with a smile. “I’ll be the old lady telling stories about my grandpa’s barn.”

Mary Best Zabinski

Title: Clear Creek Task Force administrator

Age: 38

Born: Seattle

Education: Bachelor of Arts degree, Bard College

Family: Husband, Roger; 7-year-old daughter, Aina; 4-year-old daughter, Kate

Career: Stay-at-home mom, previously was director of finance for a nonprofit television station in New York

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