Meadowlark Natural Area Opens to the Public
We are so excited to announce that the Meadowlark Natural Area is now open for free public access. The 139-acre property is accessed on the east side of the Town of Winthrop, just south of the Sullivan Cemetery and runs up the western flank of Studhorse Mountain. It is part of the scenic backdrop to Winthrop.
The Natural Area includes 2.5 miles of walking and hiking trails through beautiful shrub-steppe habitat, offering stunning views of the Methow Headwaters, Gardner Mountain and the Lake Chelan-Sawtooth and Pasayten Wilderness Areas.
We have owned the property since 2018, thanks to generous and visionary support from long-time Methow Valley adventurers Tina and Eliot Scull. “We bought the property because we recognized it is a large contiguous piece of important wildlife habitat. We also knew that, because of its location, it could provide an excellent opportunity for public access within walking distance for town residents and visitors,” noted Executive Director Jason Paulsen.
Since purchasing the land from the Heckendorn family, the Methow Conservancy has been working to understand how to balance the needs of wildlife and public access. “Our baseline research came up with an impressive diversity of flora and fauna for a relatively small area,” said Stewardship Director Heide Andersen. “We have created a management plan that includes a public closure of the Natural Area each March to give the mule deer and other wildlife undisturbed access to the early spring green-up on the hillside important for their survival. We’ve been careful to work with the surrounding neighborhoods and all stakeholders to make sure we find a way to most effectively protect our resources while providing an enjoyable experience for people.”
The trail system is open to hiking, running, wildlife viewing and dog walking. Dogs are allowed on leash only for the protection of the wildlife inhabitants and for the safety of the dogs during periods when the deer can be aggressive.
The trail system was funded by the Methow Conservancy and built by the Methow Chapter of the Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance. “We appreciate the care that Evergreen took in building the trails with minimal disturbance to the landscape,” noted Andersen. “This was an especially unique collaboration between our organizations since bikes are not allowed on the trails.”
“The Meadowlark Natural Area is our first journey into owning land for public access open to everyone in our community without the need for a parking pass,” noted Paulsen. “We’ve purposely taken our time to listen and to plan and we fully understand that we will be learning over the next few months and years about how to ensure this is a place people and wildlife can enjoy together.” Ultimately, we plan to transition the Meadowlark Natural Area to Town of Winthrop ownership so that it can endure forever as a public park.
A public access parking area and trailhead can be found just to the south of the Sullivan Cemetery in Winthrop. To find a map of the trail system and directions, please visit our new Meadowlark webpage. No parking passes of any kind are required.