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Remembering Ruth Ittner

Posted by Lauren Braden at Jun 22, 2010 09:40 PM |

Ruth Ittner passed away in early June, at age 92. I didn't know Ruth well--I'd only met her a few times--but I know her impact--on public lands, on her beloved Iron Goat Trail, and on the people she inspired to join her in her journey of political activism.

Ruth Ittner passed away in early June, at age 92. I didn't know Ruth well--I'd only met her a few times--but I know her impact--on public lands, on her beloved

, and on the people she inspired to join her in her journey of political activism.

For anyone who has enjoyed a hike on the Iron Goat Trail, a route that follows the former track of the Great Northern Railway, you should know that the entire existence of this incredible trail is a marvel of partnership and volunteerism, all possible because of the twinkle in Ruth Ittner's eyes. Ruth was a master mobilizer of volunteers, and she inspired hundreds of them over the past twenty years to help turn her vision for the Iron Goat Trail into a reality. Many of these volunteers came through Volunteers for Outdoor Washington, a trail maintenance organization she helped to found. 

Ruth started the Iron Goat Trail project in 1987, when she was nearly 70. Incredible. You're probably wondering what she accomplished prior to age 70. And the answer is, quite a bit.

The October 2005 issue of Washington Trails ran a wonderful profile of Ruth Ittner alongside others from Ruth's generation that shaped our backcountry as we know it today. The piece was called "Hiking Legends." Another one of those Hiking Legends who has since passed away was Louise Marshall, co-founder of WTA. Louise and Ruth were friends and were both prominent activists when it came to national policy for public lands and recreation. In the 1970s, they would lobby together in Washington D.C. and work with Washington state's congressional delegation towards better, sustainable funding for Forest Service recreation programs, including funding for volunteers on public lands.

Ruth's life, and the purpose with which she lived it, is a profound inspiration to my generation of trail advocates. We owe a debt of gratitude to Ruth and her generation of trail stewards and public lands guardians for helping to shape the policies and protections for our backcountry today. 

A memorial service for Ruth Ittner will be held at 2 p.m. June 27 at Plymouth Congregational Church, 1217 Sixth Ave., Seattle.

 

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