Behind the Trails

Superheroes who help shape our region

By Briana Orr, Cascade Bicycle Club Communication & Marketing Manager

Growing up in rural Pennsylvania, Shelly Bowman’s family didn’t have much, but she did have a purple Schwinn. Decked out with a banana seat and monkey handlebars, this bike was her ticket to joy and freedom.

“Seems that the sky was always blue with shining sun and the birds welcomed me and my bike to each new day of adventure.”

Shelly recalls a similar feeling of joy when walking her dog for the first time on the East Lake Sammamish Trail (ESLT) south segment through Issaquah after it opened in 2013.

“I kid you not, tears of joy came over me, [seeing] the beautiful PNW vegetation lined the trail with the glorious meadow vista to trees in the distance, and the horizon alight with stunning orange and pink glow of the sun setting,” said Shelly. “I just felt so privileged to live in such an amazing PNW area.”

Shelly was so excited, she returned to bike the trail end-to-end. But then she ran into the unfinished section of the ESLT through Sammamish: an interim gravel trail currently overgrown with vegetation and shadowed by private fences. The stark contrast between the two inspired her to learn why the trail was incomplete, which lead to learning about the trail’s history as an historical railway and getting involved in Cascade’s efforts to complete the final segment.

Hugging the eastern shore of Lake Sammamish, the ELST will connect Issaquah to Seattle, via Sammamish and Redmond, thus completing a 44-mile regional trail from the foothills of the Cascades to the Puget Sound.

Shelly Bowman_Photo by Lizette Hedberg
Shelly Bowman removes a rail spike from the Eastside Rail Corridor  at the 2016 Rail Removal Commemoration. Photo by Lizette Hedberg.

Shelly’s passion for completing the ESLT demonstrates the positive role regional trails play in our lives. The ELST is both neighborhood amenity and a linear park that promotes active lifestyles and play. And it’s for transportation — the completed ESLT will provide a safe, connected and protected alternative to the East Lake Sammamish Parkway road for people who walk and bike. Additionally, it will provide access to the Link Light Rail when the station at Marymoor Park is built in the next few years.

Shelly is a champion for completing the East Lake Sammamish Trail. She loves introducing her neighbors — young and old — to the trail, some of whom, she said, had no idea it was there.

With a 23-year career as a General Manager at Microsoft under her belt, Shelly now is the Vice President of the Board of Directors for a Redmond nonprofit called Wheellab.org, which helps youth who are on free or reduced lunch get onto bikes.

Shelly is also an active member of the Friends of the East Lake Sammamish Trail, which advocates for the trail.

Shelly believes that everyone should be able to access and enjoy the lake and trail. For Shelly, and many others, it’s also about more than lake access: Shelly points to the safety inherent in the planned 12-foot wide paved trail, which will also have gravel shoulders for walking and running. For the youth she teaches to bike, having a safe, protected place to learn will give her peace of mind, she said.

And after the ESLT is complete? Shelly says she’ll work to finish the Eastside Rail Corridor and save the John Wayne Trail, and then Shelly said she plans to travel and ride every single rails-to-trails in the country!

Learn more about Cascade Bicycle Club’s role in getting trails built at cascade.org/advocate.

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