New interpretive signs are the finishing touch on a project to refurbish and enhance the Tollgate-to-Sisters High School Trail created and maintained by Sisters Trails Alliance. photo courtesy Sisters Trails Alliance
New interpretive signs are the finishing touch on a project to refurbish and enhance the Tollgate-to-Sisters High School Trail created and maintained by Sisters Trails Alliance. photo courtesy Sisters Trails Alliance
Sisters Trails Alliance (STA) volunteers have put the final touches on the rehabilitation of the Tollgate to Sisters High School (SHS) trail.

In 2019, thanks to a generous donation from Sisters trail-lover Mike Ilg, STA resurfaced and widened the trail that connects Tollgate with SHS and installed two benches along the way. The rehab plan called for the installation of two interpretive signs to share information about student projects and the flora and fauna in the area. Those plans were derailed in 2020 as COVID struck, but came to fruition this year.

Sisters High School teachers Bethany Gunnarson and Rima Givot were instrumental in creating the content for the two signs. Gunnarson and her students provided artwork of the birds, plants, animals, and trees that inhabit the forest while Givot crafted the content for the signs. There was so much information that an online brochure was created to give readers a deeper dive. The brochure is available through a QR code on each sign or on the Sisters Trails Alliance website.

The frames for the signs were donated to STA by the Forest Service and refinished by Kris Calvin. Kris, Mark Thompson, and Greg Vandehey installed the frames next to each of the benches and last weekend Clyde Dildine, with help from a small pack of corgis, mounted the signs.

The trail passes through what is officially known as the Trout Creek Conservation Area, 161 acres of pine forest owned by the Sisters School District and protected by the Deschutes Land Trust via a voluntary land protection agreement known as a “conservation easement.” The Sisters School District owns and manages the land in the easement, but their management is guided by the land protection agreement they established with the Land Trust. Sisters School District permits hiking, bird watching, and other non-motorized, low-impact activities.

The trail is a well-used connector between the Tollgate subdivision, the middle and high schools, and downtown Sisters.

Trout Creek Conservation Area offers refuge for rare species including white-headed woodpeckers and flammulated owls, and is habitat for the rare Peck’s penstemon, a flower that only grows in a small region of Central Oregon and nowhere else in the world.

The Tollgate-to-Sisters High School trail exemplifies STA’s mission to connect people and communities to each other and their natural surroundings. STA is a nonprofit organization whose volunteers maintain close to 200 miles of trails, including the Peterson Ridge Trail System. A free map of the local trails, produced by STA and supported by local businesses, is available at the Sisters Area Chamber of Commerce, Sisters City Hall, and many businesses in Sisters. Trail users and trail lovers can support the work of STA by volunteering, becoming a member or donating at www.sisterstrails.org.