The Guemes Ferry Trail Proposal


 November 2016

This proposal is for the construction of a pathway along Guemes Island Road from South Shore Road at the Guemes Island Ferry dock to Schoolhouse Park, a distance of approximately 1.4 miles. The Guemes Ferry Trail Committee envisons this pathway to run along the east side and parallel to the road.


Guemes Island is a small island in the southeastern part of the San Juan Islands chain with an area of just over 8 square miles. In 2010, it was estimated that there were 600-800 permanent residents living on Guemes Island. However, during the summer, the population is estimated to be greater than 2,000 people due to part time residents and visitors. [1]

Guemes' unique rural character makes it a key tourist destination in Skagit County. Tourism is responsible for a large amount of summer traffic on the island. Particularly during summer months, tourists enjoy activities such as biking, hiking, and special events like art fairs and garden tours. At .5 mile from the ferry, the Guemes Community Hall is the site for music concerts and community meetings and is often accessed by pedestrians walking along Guemes Island Road. At 1.4 miles from the ferry, Schoolhouse Park provides playground equipment, a tennis court, and  baseball field. Families with children often bike along  Guemes Island Road to enjoy Schoolhouse Park. Each summer at least 15 organized bicycle groups tour the island. 

If the Washington state tourist trend continues, the result could be a 54% increase in statewide tourist traffic in the next 20 years. While statistics are not available to determine the correlation of Guemes Island tourism trends to statewide tourism trends, this figure intends to give a very approximate scale of tourism growth. [2]

Guemes Channel Trail in Anacortes has plans for following the shoreline from 6th and H streets onward to the Washington State ferries and Washington Park. Connecting that trail with a loop at 6th and I streets to the Guemes Ferry Trail would add value to the Guemes Channel Trail by allowing visitors to enjoy Guemes' rural scenery by bicycle or on foot. 


A safe walkway is needed to accommodate non-motorized traffic along Guemes Island Road. Summer, holidays and peak traffic hours on the ferry are especially dangerous times for anyone trying to navigate from the ferry dock to Schoolhouse Park. During holidays and peak weekends, traffic becomes congested leading to the Guemes ferry dock. Ferry lines can extend beyond the dedicated waiting lane causing disruptions on Guemes Island Road and creating  dangerous situations when emergency vehicles must pass. [3]

Cars exiting the ferry rush past cars traveling toward the ferry, and pedestrians and bicyclists often find themselves hugging the deep ditch that runs alongside the road. The 20' wide road with little or no shoulder cannot safely accommodate additional non-motorized traffic. Bicyclists are often in the line of traffic. 

In September 2009, at approximately the 1 mile marker on Guemes Island Road, a motorist hit a 40-year-old female bicyclist who was riding with the flow of traffic. She suffered serious life-threatening injuries. She has commented: "I can't take away the joy of riding a bike from my children. But the fear of my girls getting  hurt is incomprehensible. The proposed trail is a distination for day trips and truly the only way to insure safety for joggers, bikers, horse people, dog people and plain old mommies and daddies out on a stroll."  

Anacortes' Safe Route to Schools ridership campaign promotes walking and riding to school as alternatives to families driving their children to school. In " Anacortes Bikes and Walks: A Bicycle/Pedestrian Plan for Anacortes/2012", a rating system compares different Anacortes roadways, i.e. "Safety Rating Value of Various Road Types." However, according to this rating system, a roadway similar to Guemes Island Road with " mixed traffic and no navigable shoulder" would recieve the lowest rating, a 1 out of 7. [4] Dispite a desire to encourage walking and biking for excersice, parents of Guemes Island children stress safety concerns as reasons they do not let their children participate in the Safe Route to Schools program. 

Just as public sidewalks serve a purpose on the streets of Anacortes, a pathway on Guemes Island Road would allow both motorist and pedestrians to feel safe when traveling along this entry thoroughfare to Guemes's interior. There is a pressing need to make this road safe and practical for residents and visitors to enjoy the health, economic, and environmental benefits of walking and biking on Guemes.


Our committee, composed of 5 individuals; MJ Andrak, Lu LeMieux, Maryam Schutz , Deb Strathman,and Lorrie Steele, has been active since June of 2013. As of June 2014, 405 signatures of island residents and visitors have been gathered in support of the trail. The goal is 600 signatures which we continue to gather.

This committee has made presentations to the following island organizations and have had unanimous approval and support in each case. Those organizations are as follows: 

 Guemes Island Property Owners Association has approved and  enthusiastically supports the creation of a trail between the ferry and the county park. 

Guemes Island Library has adopted this project and will be fiscally responsible and allow it to come under their 501 (c) 3 status.

Guemes Island Community Hall Council has approved this project and would like to be updated on it's progress especially where it would impact the hall property. 

Guemes Island Firefighter's Association has approved this project as it will prevent potential accidents.

Guemes Island Planning Advisory Committee has approved this project and will add it to their report for the sub area plan for Guemes Island. 

Guemes Island Community Church has approved this project and wants to be part of the landscaping that would join the trail into the existing sidewalk in front of the church.


In August 2012 Governor Christine Gregoire opted-in to recieve federal funding through the Recreational Trail Program RTP that was created to provide non-motorized trails.  This mandate has had continued support from our new Governor Jay Inslee.


Included in the most recent Skagit County Comprehensive plan Section__________sets goals to meet that mandate

Also included in the Skagit County Comprehensive Plan; Section----------------- the policy lays out a plan to meet future increases in demand on the Guemes Island Ferry by encouraging walk-on passengers. Our proposed path would provide a safe place for foot traffic to walk, embark or disembark the ferry. 

PLAN OF ACTION: (#1 Guemes Island property map; #2 survey map from G. Kutz, Skagit Co. Public Works)

The county road easement is 60 feet in width and the road surface is 20 feet in width. Considering this, it is believed there is adaequate space for a trail of at least 4 feet.  The county needs to play an integral part  in the  engineering of the trail. It is recognized that there are regulations that must be met to provide drainage from the road bed as well as the path surface. It is thought that once the road side ditch has been culverted a small rainwater run off ditch between the road and the trail would keep both the road and trail dry. 

There are 3 private properties that would be impacted by this trial. These properties lay between South Shore Road and the Church. In May, 2009 a third lane was extended along these private properties to facilitate emergency vehicle traffic. As a result most of the county easement was used. (see maps of survey)

The 3 private property owners have been notified regarding the proposed path on  3 separate occassions. They have all responded in favor of a trail that would include some of their property.   In one case, the private property is held a Limited Liablity Corporation. They have yet to decide what the future of their property will be although they are in favor of and see the need for a path along the road.

The path from the community hall parking lot northward will lay on county easement and will be a fairly straight line of travel to the back of the county park. 

Because there is so much difference in these two portions of the pathway(private land and county land), it is thought the project should be addressed in two phases. 

Phase 1= from South Shore Road to the church.

Phase 2= from the community hall parking lot northward to the Schoolhouse Park. 

The portion between these two phases will be joined by an existing sidewalk and parking lot, which already provides good clearance for walkers and cyclists from the road. 

Most of the water that drains from the mountain to the west is culverted to the west side of Guemes Island Road. For the most part, the east side ditch is dry and the west side has water draining most of the year. In one particular location along the east side of the road (marked on the map) there is a pool of standing water, despite the under road culvert at that location.

FINANCIAL PLAN: (cost per foot)

Clear vegetation: $5/ft

Culvert 12" dia. $7/ft

Pit run back fill: $10/ft

5/8" minus crushed rock: $4/FT

Machine/labor $15/ft

Total/foot $41 plus tax = $44.32/ft

Price /mile $234,000.00



With the formation of a Maintance Committee it should be an easy and enjoyabe task to keep the pathwayl in good condition. It is also apparent that with the creation of a well built path, yearly county maintenance  (mowing the roadsides) on Guemes Island will be lessened and made much easier along the east side where the path lies.



It is this committees hope that Skagit County Public Works will join in parternship with the Guemes Ferry Trail Committee to create this safe pathway. This committee is willing to do what is needed to make this a reality with the guidance of our Public Works Department. The reputation of Guemes Island as a place to walk and ride bikes safety on it's most busy road is at stake.  



National Trail Training Partnership

American Trails Organization

People For Bikes

The Alliance for Biking and Walking

Washington Trail Association

Recreational Trail Program

Skagit County Comprehensive Plan

Guemes Island Ferry Committee

Guemes Island Planning Advisory Committee

Prepared by Guemes Island Trail Support Committee:

M.J. Andrak, Chris Damarjian,Lu LeMieux, Maryam Schutz, Deb Strathman, Lorrie Steele 


[1]M/V Guemes. O.N.601686. Ferry Replacement Plan. Ref: 13039-001-043-3, November, 2013, pg. 4, 2.1.2. Guemes Island

[2] M/V Guemes. O.N.601686. Ferry Replacement Plan. Ref: 13039-001-043-3, November, 2013, pg. 6, 2.2 Tourism

[3]M/V Guemes. O.N.601686. Ferry Replacement Plan. Ref: 13039-001-043-3, November, 2013, pg.12, 2.5.3. Traffic

[4] Anacortes Bike and Walks: A Bicycle/Pedestrian Plan for Anacortes, August 2012, pg. 20.