Author - Chris Lindhartsen

56-acre Tri-Cities park nearly ready for hikers, with just one piece missing

One of the most scenic views of the Tri-Cities will have more public access if the final pieces of a trail project fall into place.

The Friends of Badger Mountain are working to buy a parcel to connect the popular hiking trails across the four local ridges of Little Badger, Badger, Candy and Red mountains.

The group, which began as a grassroots effort 18 years ago, needs just 20 acres to create Little Badger Mountain Preserve — the third park that the group has helped establish.

“It will have the nicest views of all of the city of Richland,“ the group’s president Marc Spinner told the Herald.

“Cities and regions realize the more hiking trails there are, the more it adds to economy and community growth and health. It is a big drawing point,” he said.

Spinner said the Friends of Badger Mountain has an agreement with the land owner to buy the property by the end of the year for $1.5 million.

The group has raised all but $600,000 — and is launching a public fundraising campaign to get the rest by the end of the year.

“If we don’t do anything, and we don’t put anything in there — it will be overrun with houses,” Spinner said.

The group first created the Badger Mountain preserve in 2005. It was followed by Candy Mountain in 2016.

And now there is a network of 10 miles of trails over 900 acres. More than 300,000 people used those trails in 2019.

The trails will follow the ridges up to the summit of Little Badger, which will also have a parking lot and playground.

The new Little Badger trails will be multi-use — allowing hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding. It will span from the eastern boundary of Badger Mountain to Queensgate Drive.

The group’s goal is to have a continuous system that also includes a stretch over Red Mountain.

MAKING IT HAPPEN
Project manager David Comstock, who has been instrumental in moving the project forward, said the first section of the trail will be done this spring.

While Comstock has been working behind the scenes since 2017 to make the park a reality, the group was able to take action starting in 2019 with the first land acquisition.

The same year, the Washington Legislature allotted $450,000 from the 2019-21 capital budget to put toward the project.

Spinner said that the goal is to complete the entire system, including a trail to Red Mountain, by 2023.

“One of these days lets, face it, the entire area will be houses — maybe not in our lifetime but it will happen,” he said.

For more information or to make a tax deductible donation, go to friendsofbadger.org.

Badger group is $600K away from key land deal

The all-volunteer group that developed the popular hiking trails on Badger and Candy mountains is $600,000 away from repeating its magic on Little Badger Mountain.

Friends of Badger Mountain is turning to Tri-City businesses and other supporters to help it close a $1.5 million agreement to buy nearly 20 acres below the summit of Little Badger Mountain.

It has raised about $900,000 to date to purchase the property, which is the lynchpin to completing the future Little Badger Mountain Preserve and Trail.

The Little Badger link
The trail will rise from the future extension of Queensgate Drive toward a pair of water tanks at the top of Little Badger, where residential development is happening fast.

In time, Little Badger will serve as a link in a series of ridgeline trails that will connect Amon Basin at the Richland-Kennewick border with the Yakima River near Benton City by way of Little Badger, Badger, Candy and Red mountains.

Marc Spinner, president of Friends of Badger Mountain, predicts the newest link will be the most popular. It offers the shortest and easiest climb and the best views.

“This is the highest point and the nicest view in all of the city of Richland,” he said. “I think you will see more use at this one than any of our others.”

The site is owned by a Richland couple through a limited liability company who have agreed to sell the parcel to Friends of Badger Mountain. The nonprofit has until fall to close the deal.

Friends of Badger Mountain has secured 70% of the land it needs for the Little Badger undertaking through a series of donations and outright purchases. It regularly turns the land over to the city of Richland, which oversees the parks.

Volunteers begin trail development
Volunteers have begun developing the newest trail on sections of land it already owns on the west side, Spinner said.

One stretch crosses a sensitive area and will require the expertise of a professional engineering firm. That should occur this summer, Spinner said. Construction of the eastern section, dubbed the Saddle Trail, begins this fall.

Time is of the essence to raise money and secure the property. If the deal does not close, the site could be sold for private development.

“The area is going to go through a lot of development. That’s why we’re jumping now,” Spinner said.

Community support
Spinner praised Pahlisch Homes and the Bauder family, which are both involved with ridgetop development, for their support and continuing cooperation.

The trail snakes across the site, which also will offer a public parking lot. Spinner said local developers wanted a parking lot to deter visitors from using neighboring streets.

Friends of Badger Mountain has built an impressive record since it launched in 2005 with a mission to preserve open space and promote outdoor recreation and economic activity.

With support from the community as well as lead donations from CH2M, Bechtel and Recreational Equipment Inc., it has procured 900 acres and developed 19 miles of trail.

Badger Mountain Centennial Preserve debuted in 2008 and tallied 44,000 visitors in its first year. Candy Mountain Preserve opened in 2017. By 2019, an estimated 310,000 visitors had trekked the two trails.

Summitpost.org, a website devoted to climbing, reported that Badger Mountain records up to 2,500 people at its summit each week, making it one of the “most summited peaks” in Washington state. Its main trail rises nearly 1,580 feet and is open year-round.

Candy Mountain offers a gentler climb to the top and includes an even gentler, 1.2-mile interpretive loop on the lower, flatter section that features metal interpretative signs welded by Columbia Basin College students.

The Little Badger Preserve will connect to the Badger Centennial Preserve to the west, which in turn links to Candy Mountain via Dallas Road.

Spinner said the Friends group is ready to complete the east or “back side” of Little Badger, which will descend to the Amon Creek Basin between Leslie and Steptoe.

How to help
Go to friendsofbadger.org for more information about the trail system plans and to contribute to the Little Badger Mountain Preserve campaign. Donations can be made online or by sending checks to Friends of Badger Mountain, P.O. Box 24, Richland, WA 99352.

Article Source: Tri-City Area Journal of Business

Friends of Badger Mountain readies its new vineyard trail

The local nonprofit that built public trails on Badger and Candy mountains is preparing to open a new trailhead as it presses for a 20-mile through-trail linking Amon Basin and the Yakima River by way of Little Badger, Badger, Candy and Red mountains. Friends of Badger Mountain, which marked its 15th anniversary in June, will celebrate by opening its newest trail this fall. The Red Mountain Vineyard Trail should open by Thanksgiving, said Sharon Grant, a member of the board and spokeswoman. The newest trail follows a recent win for local hikers: The city of Richland completed its drawn-out project to replace the uneven steps at the trailhead to Badger Mountain Centennial Preserve this spring. The project was partially completed in April 2019, leaving a steep gap in the path. For the next year, most visitors detoured around the closed section. Heartier souls scrambled the steep hillside beside the closed trail. Badger Mountain made its debut in 2005, thanks to a partnership between the all-volunteer conservancy-minded nonprofit and Benton County. The team followed that up with a new trail network on Candy Mountain in 2017. More than 310,000 people used the two mountains in 2019. Four out of five hikers live in the Tri-Cities, according to a survey by Richland park rangers. Friends of Badger Mountain has long had Red Mountain in its sights. Unable to secure a corridor across its privately owned ridgeline, it lowered its focus to the vineyards below. The Red Mountain Vineyard Trail will carry the ridge-to-ridge trail through vineyards of the popular wine grape growing area. Hedges Winery in Benton City built its first section. The final “ridge” is Little Badger Mountain, which is in the city of Richland. The 3.5-mile trail will extend from the Sagebrush Trail on the eastern boundary Badger Mountain through the “saddle” to Little Badger, which boasts Richland’s highest elevation. Friends of Badger Mountain planned to begin raising the $500,000 in January to buy the remaining 21 acres to complete the trail. That is on hold because of the Covid-19 crisis although donations can be made online through friendsofbadger.org/little-badger-mountain. The city of Richland set aside $200,000 in lodging taxes to support the project. Article Source: Tri-City Business Journal

Local firefighters hike Badger after Seattle Stairclimb postponed

RICHLAND, Wash. — Firefighters from across the Tri-Cities weren't going to let a postponed event stop them from climbing for a cause. (See the story at YakTriNews.com) The Seattle Stairclimb, hosted by the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, was set to take place on Sunday. Due to coronavirus concerns, it was postponed. Local agencies were expected to attend. Despite the unfortunate news, they decided to come together and climb up Badger Mountain instead. “But what’s really cool — the silver lining in this is that we kind of get to come together as a community and all the regional teams can participate in this climb,” said Tony Jorgensen, a Kennewick firefighter. They went up the mountain in full gear — all their clothing, air packs and boots. While the event has not yet been rescheduled, you can still donate to the society.

Something new is coming for hikers on Badger and Candy mountains

Tri-City hikers could have a new trail spur on Badger Mountain as soon as this fall. (See the story at the Tri-City Herald) The Friends of Badger Mountain will be working first on a short trail addition on Candy Mountain, with work possible next week. The Benton County Park Board gave its approval to both projects. The larger project will add a trail from the east side of the Badger Mountain Preserve, mostly across adjoining land donated to the Friends of Badger Mountain by Mark and Milo Bauder. Park board approval was needed because the first 30 to 40 feet of the new trail spur is on county property. The spur will extend from what is now Sagebrush trail to the east, not far from where the Langdon, Skyline and Sagebrush trails meet. The spur and section of the Sagebrush Trail are expected to eventually be considered part of the Skyline Trail. It would start the trail system heading to the east toward another high point of the Tri-Cities, Little Badger Mountain. Friends of Badger Mountain are working on a proposal to bring the trail system to the top of Little Badger Mountain, through a patchwork of agreements for easements, purchases and use of Richland city-owned land. Getting a trail to the summit of Little Badger may be a year or two away, but the spur trail on Badger Mountain is a step toward that goal, said Jim Langdon, trailmaster for the Friends of Badger Mountain. The new trail section on Badger Mountain would be roughly a third of a mile long, ending at the sidewalk along Queensgate Drive. There is no parking where the trail would end, but the sidewalk there is already used by recreational walkers. It would give them an access point to the Badger Mountain Centennial Preserve trail system, Langdon said. Initial plans were to work on the new spur this fall, but there is some question now about whether all technical issues will be worked out in time for fall work. If the work has to be delayed, it would be done in the spring, Langdon said. Also, the city of Richland is expecting work this winter to finish trail improvements to replace steps near the east trailhead. CANDY MOUNTAIN SPUR The Candy Mountain trail spur would be much shorter than the spur planned on Badger Mountain. That mountain’s trail system includes a fairly flat loop trail that can be started from the parking lot with about 25 plant-identification signs. Four larger geological interpretation signs are planned. One would explain “erratics,” or boulders left on Tri-City hillsides by the series of ice age floods that swept through the area from Lake Missoula. One of the granite boulders, now darkened by lichen, is about 80 feet from the interpretive loop. A spur trail is planned to the erratic with a sign to help hikers understand the Tri-City-area geology. The spur is a joint project of Benton County the Friends of Badger Mountain and the Ice Age Floods Institute. Ice age glaciers that moved down from Canada once blocked Lake Missoula, a huge glacial body of water in what’s now northern and western Montana. As water in the lake built up, it periodically burst through the ice dam and swept across norther Idaho into Washington. As the water flowed south, the Wallula Gap served as a natural dam, backing water up behind it in the Pasco Basin for a few days to a week. As the water pooled, icebergs bumped up against the sides of the mountains. Then the water receded, and the icebergs became stranded and melted, depositing soil and rock, including the erratics that can be seen today on Tri-City-area hillsides. In the deepest floods, just the tip of Candy Mountain would have formed a small island. People willing to volunteer for trail maintenance and building, may contact Langdon at Trailmaster@friendsofbadger.org or 943-3992.

Nonprofit races to buy Badger land

It’s a race against development for a local nonprofit working to preserve some of the Tri-City region’s natural habitat for future generations to enjoy. (see the story at the Tri-Cities Area Journal of Business) Friends of Badger Mountain is working quickly and strategically to carve a trail through development, around and up Little Badger Mountain before houses completely cover the ridge side, blocking the possibility for public access in the future. Friends of Badger Mountain is working to complete its bigger vision of having a connected ridge trail that starts in the Amon Basin, goes over three mountain ridges (Little Badger, Badger and Candy mountains) and eventually all the way to the Yakima River. In creating this connected trail, the nonprofit must connect Little Badger to Badger, and it is in the process of securing enough money to do that. “We have to get in ahead of developers, and the area is just expanding at an incredible pace,” said David Comstock, a Friends of Badger Mountain board member. “It’s kind of a race to preserve these areas that people have taken for granted all their lives … that are now being consumed by development.” “We (want) to preserve the last little pieces that are left to build this interconnecting trail system,” Comstock said. Badger Mountain, its affectionately named younger sibling Little Badger and Candy Mountain are the only real mountains in the region that the public can climb because most of Rattlesnake Mountain and ridgeline is inaccessible, as it’s part of the Hanford Reach National Monument or the Hanford nuclear reservation. The local mountains have not always been open to the public, however, and it was not until advocates like Friends of Badger partnered with cities and counties that they were accessible. Friends of Badger formed in 2003 after a group of Hanford workers had a tradition of hiking Badger Mountain every New Year’s Day cut short by local private landowners who did not want them climbing on their property due to liability reasons. The group first raised money and worked with Benton County to eventually create the Badger Mountain Centennial Preserve, a nearly 200-acre space now open to the public, with a park entrance in Richland. The preserve belongs to the county, with a commitment from Friends to do trail maintenance and upkeep. The Friends’ next project was Candy Mountain, and in 2017, it opened to the public, helping cut down on some of the foot traffic at Badger Mountain. The Little Badger Mountain trail link would effectively connect Kennewick to Richland to West Richland and ultimately could go to Benton City, as that city works on converting old rail tracks and bridges to trails to meet it. For Badger and Candy mountains, Friends worked with Benton County, but for the Little Badger project, it is working with the city of Richland. The cost to complete the trail connection on Little Badger Mountain comes with an enormous price tag, in large part due to the value of the property, which private owners could sell to developers for a large profit. Recognizing this, Comstock is in the midst of working with both developers and landowners to ensure they are paid a fair price for their land — and to ensure that Friends can secure the rights to the land that’s left between where the Badger Mountain trail ends at Queensgate Drive, up to the water tanks at the summit of Little Badger Mountain. On some parcels, Friends of Badger is hiring an appraiser to determine how much the land they need to acquire to finish the Little Badger link is worth. “We go through a good process to make sure that the landowners are fairly compensated if they’re going to work with us in creating these preserves,” Comstock said. Friends of Badger does not keep the land it acquires, and the Little Badger project will eventually be a city of Richland park at the end of the process. Once Friends acquires the land needed to complete the trail, the nonprofit will quickly deed the property to the city, with conditions it must adhere to, like keeping it for public use. The Little Badger project will cost about $4 million for 80 acres when it is completed, Comstock said, mainly because some of the lots the nonprofit had to buy are prime developer real estate, with river and Tri-Cities views up on the Little Badger ridge. “We don’t want to be looking at someone’s giant back wall privacy fence for this whole center corridor, so that’s why this is so important to us to actually preserve some acreage,” Comstock said. “If we were just doing a trail, we might need 10 feet, but we don’t want to be in a utility corridor with privacy fences on both sides and no view. We want to have the Badger Mountain-type experience, where we are meandering through the sage and having an enjoyable hike across the space.” As of late last year, Friends of Badger had about three missing links in its proposed Little Badger project, but those links are slowly being connected as donations and funding sources emerge. A more than $300,000 donation from Hanford contractor AECOM and subsidiary Washington Closure Hanford late last year helped secure the necessary funding to buy three ridge view lots on top of Little Badger Mountain, so the trail could reach the summit. On April 2, the Richland City Council voted to approve $200,000 from the city’s tourism tax committee to help pay for one of the missing parcels as well. Now, Comstock is focusing on finding a way to secure the last four parcels in the middle of the Little Badger site needed to connect the lower Queensgate part of the trail to the summit. Friends of Badger Mountain is about $1.5 million short on funding for the remaining four parcels of the trail, Comstock estimated, and he is looking to various sources for help before beginning a fundraising effort later this year. The group helped the city of Richland apply for a state Recreation and Conservation Office grant, which included trips to Olympia. The Little Badger project ranked 11th of 34 trail projects on the RCO funding list, which is funded in two-year cycles through the state’s budget. RCO would need to be funded at a record level, $120 million, for the Little Badger project to see any funding. Comstock also pursued another route, appealing directly to the various District 8 lawmakers for funding from the state budget. The 2019-21 budget currently is working its way through the Legislature. In the House version of the state budget, there is a $464,000 earmark to help pay for the project, but the Senate must approve this as well. Comstock won’t know how much state funding he receives until the end of April, when the legislative session concludes and lawmakers approve a final budget. Friends of Badger Mountain plans to begin work on the Little Badger trail this spring, when a contractor hired by the nonprofit is finished evaluating soil on the slope of Badger to Queensgate. Comstock expects work to begin as soon as fall on this portion of the trail. Because the slope is steep, Friends will hire a contractor to build retaining wall structures through a competitive bidding process. After that is completed, the nonprofit will lead the volunteer effort to build the trail to the top of the ridge, hopefully this fall. The hope is to have an interconnected trail completed by the end of 2020, Comstock said. More than 200,000 people a year hiked Badger Mountain on average in the last six years, by the Friends’ count. A city of Richland park’s survey found that 19 percent of visitors to the mountain were not from Benton or Franklin counties, Comstock said, meaning the preserve and the trails have become a tourist attraction in the area. Comstock pointed to state recreation surveys that show outdoor recreation as an economic driver as well as asset to the community. He said he has conversations with small-business owners who take prospective employees up Badger to show off recreational opportunities. He said the interconnected ridge trail is a way to preserve the area’s natural habitat for future generations. “It’s incredibly powerful to know we are participating in something that will preserve this area and public access to the summit of Little Badger that will be enjoyed for generations to come,” he said. “I mean, my kids can take their kids up there and say, ‘Hey, my dad helped preserve this for everyone.’ ”

This $300,000 gift will boost Tri-Cities hiking trails

The Tri-Cities’ network of ridgeline trails will soon climb Little Badger Mountain, thanks to a recent donation to Friends of Badger Mountain. Scott Sax, president of Washington Closure Hanford, presented a check for $300,761 to the nonprofit at its recent annual meeting. The contribution honors employees of the former Hanford contractor for their significant achievements to clean up the nuclear reservation along the Columbia River over 11 years. Friends of Badger will use the donation to acquire three parcels on the top of Little Badge for its proposed system of trails from neighboring Badger Mountain. Friends of Badger Mountain has worked with the city of Richland and landowners to design the route. It is in the process of raising money to buy the needed land. The trail will start at Sagebrush Trail, near the Badger Mountain Centennial Preserve, and will meander near the edge of the ridge line between two new housing developments. The project includes buying three lots in Westcliffe Heights, a hilltop subdivision now under construction. The new Little Badger trail is expected to open in fall 2020. Badger Mountain is one of a series of basalt ridges in south central Washington’s shrub-steppe habit, where hikers can spot rabbits, snakes, lizards, coyotes, Western meadowlarks, chukars and a variety of wildflowers in the spring. About 200,000 people each year hike the Badger Mountain trail, which opened in 2005. On top of Badger and neighboring Candy Mountain, hikers can see on a clear day Mount Hood, Mount Adams, Mount Rainier, the Blue Mountains and the Columbia, Yakima and Snake river valleys. See original story on the Tri-City Herald

Pasco students help replant sagebrush on Badger

Teacher Scott Ehrenburg helps Robert Frost fifth-graders Evelyn Miranda, left, and Santiago Garcia remove a sagebrush starter plant from a plastic sleeve Thursday during a field trip to Badger Mountain in Richland. Some 87 students from the Pasco elementary school took part in a hands-on habitat restoration project organized by volunteers from Tapteal Greenway and Columbia Basin Native Plant Society. The students planted about 100 plants along the north side lower trail of the popular hiking area.

They come from around the globe, just to run 100 miles near the Tri-Cities

View the original story on the Tri-City Herald. An epic mountain trail running event is enticing hundreds of the top athletes and outdoor enthusiasts from all over the region, the U.S. and Canada, and as far away as Ecuador, to come to the Tri-Cities on March 30 and 31 to participate in the one of the most challenging and grueling foot races in the world. The Badger Mountain Challenge, a two-day event hosted by the Nomad Trail Runners of Eastern Washington, is on track to see over 750 entrants this year. “Interest in the event is at an all-time high,” said event organizer Jason Reathaford. “We have over 105 entrants signed up for the 50-miler compared to 75 last year. The 100-mile race has 100 entrants in it so far, compared to 78 people last year. We are expecting 75 people in the 50K race and around 425 starters in the 15K race.” Each event will begin and end at Badger Mountain’s Trailhead Park and traverse nearby ridges. The 50- and 100-mile course includes footpaths, multi-use trails, rocky jeep trails, dirt roads and short stretches of pavement on and around Badger and Candy mountains and McBee Hill. The 100-mile course is a double out-and-back route, while the 50-miler is just one circuit. The 50K runs the same course but turns around earlier. Runners will face rough roads, single-track trails, and some steep, challenging climbs. There are a few short paved sections, and good aid station and crew access. The entire 100-mile course has approximately 15 total miles of pavement, but the rest is on dirt or rock. There are several steep 800- to 1,000-foot climbs, with elevations ranging from 500 to 2,000 feet. “We have runners from Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Oklahoma, Ontario, Idaho, Texas, Georgia, British Columbia, Ontario, and we know of a couple coming from Ecuador”, Reathaford said. Sharon Grant, of Friends of Badger Mountain adds, “It’s a thrill – a dream come true – seeing Badger Mountain utilized for this amazing event. It benefits the people, the local economy, the health and well-being of all.” A new section on Badger Mountain will be part of the course. A volunteer effort under the guidance of trailmaster Jim Langdon completed the 1,400-foot addition to Sagebrush Trail, circumventing the steep stair steps at Trailhead Park. Last year, 35-year old Brandon Benefield from Spokane won the 100-mile race, crossing the finish line just after midnight on Saturday night, clocking in at 17 hours, 32 minutes, 46 seconds. The long-range forecast for next weekend is indicating no precipitation, low winds, and temperatures in the 50s to 60s. Net proceeds from the event will benefit Friends of Badger Mountain, Washington Trails Association, Girls on the Run and Team in Training, which is raising money to fight leukemia and lymphoma. A scholarship funded by the race will benefit one lucky local student. For more information, go to www.badgermountainchallenge.com

Tri-City mountain trails are area gems. Here’s how you can help polish them

It’s no secret that Badger Mountain and new sister trail on Candy Mountain, have turned into a leading outdoor recreation destination for Eastern Washington. The mountain parks, with their majestic views, offer more than nine miles of well-maintained trails and support year-round hiking, mountain biking, wildflowers, bird watching and stargazing. Badger has been hiked by 200,000 people this year alone. But keeping the mountain trails in great shape for all to enjoy is no small undertaking. “We hear a lot that the trails are great, but it takes a little work to keep them that way,” trailmaster Jim Langdon said. “These trails have been built and maintained all by volunteers.” In that spirit, the Friends of Badger Mountain seek volunteers to help with trail maintenance throughout the year. The mission is regular maintenance to maintain the best possible trail conditions. Recently, teams of volunteers from REI, Bechtel NextGen and Boy Scout Troup 126 worked to recover the gravel along Sagebrush and Canyon trails, completing more than a mile. This past Sunday, a crew worked on the Candy Mountain Trail parking lot and then worked the first 100 yards of the Badger Flats Trail. Volunteers also installed information kiosks and a set of basalt educational monuments at the Candy Mountain trailhead. The Boy Scouts also worked with the landowner and placed two new resting benches on the summit of Candy Mountain. CH2M Hill also will add basalt benches along the Candy trail — two along the trail, and three benches and two tables at the summit. “We’re really happy to see anyone — teenagers to retirees, come out,” Langdon said. “It’s a great way to spend a morning, get in a good walk and a good workout.” Upcoming work will focus on the Canyon Trail, recovering gravel that has moved off the edge and any other repairs that are identified. The Friends of Badger Mountain are waiting for approval to work on a second Candy Mountain trail. TThe project will convert the old road that parallels the lower part of the Candy Mountain trail to form an approximately one-mile-long loop, all on easy trail. Trailmaster Jim Langdon said that there will be work parties most Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays until Thanksgiving or until snow fall prevents further work. The work will use rakes and hoes to cut back weeds, recover gravel that has left the trail and re-level the trail bed. To help, call ahead and arrive early. Volunteers will walk to the summit before work starts. Bring gloves, snacks and water, and dress for the weather. “This is a wonderful way help our community,” Langdon said. “You get to look up at the mountain and feel good that you did something great.”