Taking Pride in the NK Trail That Carries His Name
Hansville resident Sid Knutson will have a trail system named for him this fall. The 83-year-old Knutson still regularly walks the paths and will lead people on full tours. Photo: Lenna Himmelstein, Kitsap Sun
HANSVILLE - Years ago when Sid Knutson explored the wetlands in Hansville, he thought: "Wouldn't it be great to have a greenway that goes all the way from Puget Sound to the Hood Canal?"
That sense may have come from a deep-seeded desire that the man who grew up during the Depression always had to accomplish something worthwhile. And it may have been characteristic for the son of a Minnesota tenant farmer, who joined the Marines thinking he could find a brother captured in the Philippines, to not back down in the face of some hard work.
It's that attitude, even now at age 83, that still energizes Knutson, who had a part of the Hansville Greenway Puget Sound to Hood Canal trail named for him.
He organized the project. And Knutson can still be found on the trails or in the wetlands, working with other volunteers to help make his namesake trail the best it can be.
The reality behind Knutson's vision decades ago was that he would have to buy a lot of land for such a trail. Creating a land trust seemed overwhelming, and recognizing that he didn't need or want to reinvent that wheel, he joined the Kitsap Land Trust (now part of the Great Peninsula Conservancy) and began a long and fruitful relationship.
In 1991, to move toward the greenway dream, Knutson researched and developed a report titled "A Strategy for Preservation, Protection, and Public Enjoyment of Open Space/Sensitive Areas" in Hansville. He and the volunteer team had done their homework.
"We had our ducks in a row," Knutson says now. "Even before we got grants, we hired a wetland botanist to study the plants, water, animals and soil. We knew right away this would be a nature preserve and wildlife sanctuary in addition to a greenway with a system of trails."
He had experience planning such projects. Knutson worked for the U.S. Corps of Engineers for 34 years, involved in construction, designing, planning, and project management. He retired in 1981 as assistant chief of the engineering division of the Corps' Seattle District, and found himself spending most of his time in the office instead of outdoors.
Quickly missing the highly productive life he had enjoyed, he decided to go to work for John Graham and Co., an architectural engineering firm where he worked enthusiastically for three years. Because of a heart problem, Knutson retired again in 1985. By eating healthily and exercising regularly, he quickly returned to accomplishing worthwhile projects through community involvement.
In 1986 Knutson and his wife, Jeanne, moved from Edmonds to their rebuilt and enlarged house in Hansville, on land they had owned since 1967. He quickly found himself volunteered by a friend to be a water commissioner. That was the beginning of a wide assortment of positions and roles in various community organizations: the Hansville Chamber of Commerce, the Kitsap Land Trust, citizen advisory committees and Kitsap County Conservation Voters.
After the 1991 report was completed, volunteers put in hours of work before the first acquisition of 152 acres, on the upper part of the greenway. Matching funds from Kitsap County and the state made it work in 1994 and 1995.
"We got into this before there was too much development in Hansville," Knutson said. "Many small communities are realizing that parks, trails, open space and greenways are as important a part of a community's infrastructure as roads, sewers, and water systems. We figured that out before the boom arrived here."
The next big addition to the greenway took place in 2004 and 2005, through the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office's fund for land acquisition. The lower part of the greenway was filled in to complete the connection between Puget Sound and the Hood Canal.
Since then, a group of about 30 volunteers, with Knutson always working alongside, has improved the trails, built rest platforms, developed signage and planned bridges to span particularly wet spots. Over the summer, the Sid Knutson Puget Sound to Hood Canal Trail opened to the public.
Knutson said he loves to walk the trail and will be available to take people on a full tour — while of course he continues building and clearing, promoting and enhancing the Hansville Nature Preserve and Wildlife Sanctuary.