“I had cut down my share of trees as a young man before the war, in order to make ends meet, but when I heard in the early 1990s that 400 acres of forest land near Heart Lake, at the base of Mt Erie, had been earmarked for selective logging, I decided that I would try and preserve them. I went to City Hall and said I would write a check for $100,000 there and then to save Mt Erie. The city officials I spoke to just about fell off their chairs.”-John Tursi
John Tursi was a true Anacortes hero. At the age of sixteen and desperate to get a job, Tursi lied about his age and joined the Civilian Conservation Corp. He left his hometown of Brooklyn and moved to Anacortes to help build the Deception Pass Bridge. For the first time since his mother died (when he was six), he had the certainty of a roof over his head and three meals a day. After arriving in the Pacific Northwest, he fell in love with a young woman named Doris Anderson, whom he married before going off to serve in WWII. Tursi eventually became a self-taught engineer and went to work for Shell Oil Company. He and Doris consistently invested their earnings. Upon retirement, Tursi began giving back to the community that had given him a home.
Not far from our office and just west of Lake Campbell is the new John Tursi Trail. This hiking trail of approximately one mile connects to a well-established trail through Heilman Valley and along the shore of Pass Lake to Donnell Road. The John Tursi Trail allows public access from the northern section of Deception Pass State Park to Anacortes Community Forest Lands. The ribbon-cutting ceremony and dedication for the Tursi Trail was held last June 4, which was National Trails Day. Six weeks later, Tursi passed away at the age of ninety-eight.
The best way to hike the trail is to start at the parking lot at Pass Lake off Rosario Road. The Tursi portion of the trail begins at the Ginnett Homestead and ends at Donnell Road. Hikers will experience some of the best views in the area, taking in Pass Lake, Lake Campbell, Mount Erie, and Mount Baker, as they trek the moderately strenuous route through meadows and over bald outcroppings. It’s best to take a map of the area with you.
For more about John Tursi, read A Long Way from Brooklyn: An Italian-American Journey by John Tursi and Thelma Palmer.
To learn why Cave Art Press decided to publish this book, attend my presentation at the Langley Library on Whidbey Island on Saturday, October 22 at 10:00 am.