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Group aims to balance development, nature in Tri-Cities

By John Trumbo, Herald staff writer

A new private-public partnership wants to help preserve the ridges and rivers of the Tri-Cities. "I'm a lifelong resident. There's great urgency. Just look around and see what's left," said Scott Woodward, who helped found the Ridges to Rivers Open Space Network six months ago. The group's vision is to have a network of natural features and open spaces that complement residential and commercial development, he said. "We need common ideas, maps and vision," said Woodward, whose passion about saving natural features also led to the creation of the nonprofit Tapteal Greenway Association a decade ago and the recent preservation of the Amon Creek Natural Basin in Richland. "We need a regional plan," Woodward said. That might not mean a continuous trail system looping around the through the Tri-Cities to include major features such as Badger Mountain, the Chamna Natural Preserve and bike and walking trails that loop out to Sacagawea Park. But it does mean creating public awareness about the importance of open space, he said. "We want people to see a lot of things in a natural state," Woodward said. The group is a partnership of private and government agencies involving the cities of Pasco, Richland, West Richland, Benton and Franklin counties, the National Park Service, Tri-Cities Visitor and Convention Bureau, Tapteal Greenway Association, Lower Columbia Basin Audubon Society and Friends of Badger Mountain. Other entities include the Community Health Alliance, Fun Fit and over Fifty, Open Space Coalition of Benton and Franklin counties and the Columbia Basin chapter of the Washington Native Plant Society. Woodward hopes to add Kennewick and the Benton Franklin Council of Governments by the end of September after making presentations to those governing bodies. "We want to make this a regionwide idea. This is the time to ask the questions," Woodward said. Woodward also said the Ridges to Rivers group will present its vision and goals at a joint meeting of Benton and Franklin counties and parks staffs from Kennewick, Pasco, Richland and West Richland on Sept. 11. Once all of the public agencies and government officials have been informed about what the Ridges to Rivers group wants, the next step will be a series of meetings to obtain public input. No dates have been set for those meetings. Woodward said the public comments will help shape the comprehensive plan for open spaces in the Tri-Cities. "This is pretty ambitious. It's the biggest thing we've ever attempted," Woodward said.

Gift aids bid to preserve space on Badger Mountain

By John Trumbo, Herald staff writer

The Pasco-Kennewick Rotary Club has donated $2,000 to the Friends of Badger Mountain for preserving open spaces and hiking trails on Little Badger Mountain.

The donation brings the total raised so far by the 60-day campaign of the Friends of Badger Mountain to $105,000, said Sharon Grant, the group's president.

Grant said they also have several pledges and matching donations that she hopes will meet the goal to purchase as much as 50 acres on the small mountain overlooking the Tri-Cities.

The group hopes to convince property owner Milo Bauder of Richland to sell the land to become part of a trail system along the area's ridgetops.

The group is trying to raise $1 million by June 30 so it can apply for a matching $1 million State Recreation and Conservation Office grant.

Grant said she and others in the group have been speaking to homeowner associations, the Benton County Parks Commission Board, Richland Department of Parks and Recreation Commission, Lower Columbia Basin Audubon Society, service clubs and outdoors gear retailer REI.

"Wherever we go and present, ... it is really capturing people's interest," Grant said.

One recent $25,000 pledge came from a Tri-City business owner, she noted.

Patty Heasler said her Rotary Club chose the project as its community project, in part because the Friends group recently received the "Tourism of the Year Award" from the Tri-Cities Visitor and Convention Bureau.

"This is a significant project for our club that we support wholeheartedly, between willing buyers and sellers. The ridgelines and the rivers are some of our most significant assets in attracting and retaining business," said Heasler, the club president.

Information about the campaign is available at

Little Badger Mountain could be key to skyline

Tri-City Herald

Let's all get high -- again.

The Friends of Badger Mountain successfully preserved that ridge from development the old-fashioned way, by buying it from a willing seller.

It's five years later, and the group and its supporters are going after Little Badger Mountain. We hope they use the same tactic.

With Badger Mountain, the relationship between willing buyer and seller was clear cut. With Little Badger, who knows?

The major property owner, Milo Bauder, hasn't had too much to say about it so far. Maybe that's because the grassroots group of preservationists doesn't have the money in hand. Maybe it's for some other reason.

We like the idea of preserving our ridgelines. We prefer to look up from just about anywhere in the Tri-Cities and see our "mountains" instead of buildings.

An estimated 2,500 people hike Badger Mountain in a typical week to enjoy the view and the workout. Most of the Herald's editorial board has made the trek.

When the Friends saved Badger Mountain, they did a nice thing for the community, and it was more than just preserving the mountaintop. They've also improved the trails, making the ridge accessible to much of the community.

The Canyon Trail starts off Keene Road near Bethel Church and is a 1.1-mile trail for hikers only. The 2.2-mile Skyline Trail, open to hikers, mountain bikers and horseback riders, starts from Dallas Road.

If the group's long-term plans come to fruition, there will be a contiguous ridge trail from Red Mountain, over Candy and Badger mountains, to Little Badger. These high trails would connect to lower trails along the river through Amon Basin.

If the effort is successful, the Tri-Cities would enjoy a unique natural asset, providing a welcome addition to our quality of life.

The hitch, of course, is money. And it will take a lot of it.

If the Friends come up with $1 million by the end of June, the group can apply for a matching $1 million State Recreation and Conservation Office grant.

The Friends of Badger Mountain already have drummed up some community support from local businesses and a few generous individuals, but Sharon Grant, president of Friends, doesn't discount the smaller donors. Hundreds of individuals donated in the push to buy Badger Mountain.

Grant points out that if 10,000 families donated $100 each, they would have their first million.

There still are a lot of "ifs" in the deal.

If the Friends of Badger Mountain can raise the $1 million by the end of June. If the group is awarded the matching grant from the state. If the sellers and buyers can come to a mutual agreement.

But it seems doable. We would like to see this project succeed, "if" it can.

Badger Mountain group on $1 million mission

By John Trumbo, Herald staff writer

Friends of Badger of Mountain has less than 60 days to raise $1 million to match a potential state grant for buying another chunk of ridge real estate overlooking the Tri-Cities.

The grassroots campaign has until June's end to raise the money, said Sharon Grant, president of the Friends during a news conference Tuesday at Trailhead Park in Richland.

The land in question is part of 150 acres on Little Badger Mountain owned by Richland developer Milo Bauder.

Grant said Bauder plans to build homes and a small retail center on part of the mountain but may be willing to sell for the right price.

But he won't talk about a price until he knows the Friends group has enough money in hand to be serious, Grant said.

Bauder said Tuesday he didn't want to comment about what the Friends are doing or talking to him about.

Having some of the area's ridges preserved as open space is a worthy goal, said Bill King, Richland's assistant city manager.

"The city's take on these ridges is that they are really important on giving the city its identity. We're happy to work with the community on this," he said.

The Friends would donate the purchased land to the city as dedicated open space.

But raising the money in less than two months is a daunting task, said Grant, who said the group is calling the campaign the Sprint to The Summit.

The group has proved it can raise money to buy land for public access. It gathered $750,000 in 2005 to help buy land on Badger Mountain and then ceded the property to Richland for recreational use.

The group has long-range ambitions to acquire land to develop a ridgetop trail system extending across Red, Candy, Badger and Little Badger mountains.

Grant said Bauder has almost complete control over what she said would be strictly a business deal. He is preparing to build on 41 acres near the top of Little Badger. But that project, which has city approval, is being challenged in an appeal before the Richland City Council.

Depending on the appeal's outcome, selling the property to Friends could be something Bauder might consider, Grant said.

She said she told Bauder the group would go after the $1 million state grant by trying to raise $1 million to match it. She said he wouldn't make any promises until the group had the money.

The group won't be able to raise enough to buy all 150 acres but $2 million could purchase 40 or 50 acres if Bauder agreed, Grant said.

"Land is getting so expensive. We know this is the last year or two we can afford to do this," she said.

Grant said representatives of Friends will hit service clubs hard in coming weeks and hope to rally interest by setting up information tables around the community and asking people to donate.

Members say a survey indicates more than 2,500 people a month use the Badger Mountain trail system.

Ten thousand families giving $100 each would make the $1 million, Grant said.

Bill Lampson, who is on the Friends' advisory council, has pledged $25,000, Grant said. Other business owners could follow the example, too, based on an idea proposed by several Tri-City banks.

Grant said they suggested that they could front $100,000 each for the land purchase, if businesses would agreed to repay pledged amounts to the banks to cover the loans.

"It is a big lift," said Mike Schwenk, a Friends supporter in describing the call for $1 million. But doing it in less than 60 days is an even bigger lift.

"This couldn't be more difficult," said Schwenk, who said protecting the ridges in the Tri-Cities is a quality of life issue that will affect the quality of economic development.

To make donations or learn more about the organization, go to

It’s the season for desert hiking and wildflower appreciation

Tri-City Herald

You felt it and maybe suspected it, but now you can verify it. March was a cold one. As we're reporting, the average temperature for March in the Tri-Cities was 45 degrees, or 2 degrees below normal.

April also is expected to run colder than normal, but don't let that stop you from enjoying some of the best desert hiking of the year. Spring's cool weather provides a pleasant time to get outside before summer heat comes.

We're also starting spring wildflower season, and April brings out our desert flowers at their best.

A hike up the Badger Mountain trail Wednesday morning showed some of the earliest of the balsamroot blooms in the bottom of the ravine as you begin the climb up the trail.

At the top of the first ridge, which I like to call Windy Knob because the wind can blow stronger there than even on top of Badger, a couple of other wildflower varieties are showing off in the very spare and rocky ground where most other plants can't survive. Wish I knew their names, but they're among the most delicate blooms of spring and seem to grow only at this mid-elevation.

Few blooms are showing on top yet, but soon there will be plenty of the hardy desert phlox showing up all over the ridge, along with many others. A ways down the hill, in disturbed ground alongside the ridge road, in a few weeks you will be able to find Piper's Daisy, a delicate variety that grows only in the Columbia Basin.

Watch also for wildlife when you climb Badger.

On Wednesday, the brown dog and I encountered chukar, pheasant and quail. Ravens, which nest on the radio towers at the top, were riding thermal wind currents along the ridge, and the sage was full of sparrows dodging quickly about as a hawk circled overhead. A large flicker, a woodpecker species, popped onto a nearby sage to eye the intruders.

On a recent climb, a horned lark, brilliant in his plumage and brash in his manner, flew onto the trail a few feet away to declare his territory. Other trips have produced glimpses of coyotes and bullsnakes.

I haven't seen rattlesnakes on the ridge, but other hikers have reported them. Some of those may have been bullsnakes, which are harmless but often are mistaken for rattlesnakes, but a few rattlers do live on the ridge. Don't harm any of the snakes; this is their home, not yours, and they would rather get away than cause trouble.

Thanks to efforts of hundreds of volunteers coordinated by Friends of Badger Mountain, more than 3 miles of improved trail now extend across the Badger Mountain park. The land was acquired in 2005 thanks to fundraising efforts led by the Friends group.

Trailheads start at Richland's Trailhead Park, which you can reach by turning off Shockley and going all the way up the hill, or off Dallas Road. The Dallas Road route is not as steep, and a friend with a bad back prefers it, but many people of all ages hit both trails at their own pace. On Wednesday, a couple pushing a baby in a stroller made it to the top -- a good workout for sure.

An estimated 1,000 or more people climb Badger each week, and on weekend days with good weather you'll have lots of company. The view is worth it.

Friends of Badger Mountain and others are working to try to acquire more lands on the ridgetops surrounding the Tri-Cities to save these expansive views for all to enjoy. Information on fundraising efforts and volunteer work party events is available at Trailhead Park.

So quit making excuses about the weather and get out and enjoy what our Mid-Columbia spring has to offer. You won't regret that you did, even if it produces a stiff muscle or two.

Stranded pickup truck removed from Badger Mountain on Feb. 22nd

A stranded pickup truck had been stuck below the Canyon Trail since October, 2008. Two articles about the stuck truck appeared in the Tri-City Herald on October 22nd and 28th.

Here's our story of the removal on February 22nd.

Good news!  On the morning of Sunday, February 22, the white truck was removed from the ravine aside the Canyon Trail. A good sized crew from the Peak Putters, a local 4-wheelers club, volunteered their time and equipment and towed the truck out despite the rain and near freezing temperatures. Adam Fyall, from the Benton County Commissioner's Office, and Jim Langdon, from Friends of Badger Mountain, coordinated the operation with help from fellow friends of Friends of Badger Skip Claeson, John Friley, George Hunt, and Ken McMillan. The truck's owner stayed with the truck and steered. The soil was firm so the vehicle tracks caused minimal damage and the spring growth should help cover them. You can also read about the removal in an article in the February 24th edition of the Tri-City Herald

Council Okays Subdivision on Little Badger Mountain

KEPR TV RICHLAND - More homes and maybe less mountains? Richland city council gave the go-ahead for a new subdivision to dig in on top of Little Badger Mountain. But folks like Sharon Grant aren't happy about it. Grant is president of the "Friends of Badger Mountain", that's the group trying to preserve the ridges in the Tri-Cities. Grant says she disappointed in the council's decision but there is still hope their group might work something out with the developer. The group is in negotiations with the developer to buy the parts of the ridge line and leave them open. The group is raising money to back the deal. For more information on the Friends of Badger, click on the "Newslinks" section of our website. The planned subdivision will bring in more than 50 homes and about 90 town homes to South Richland.

Ridgeline Development or Open Space?

By Dennis Cresswell, Managing Editor, Tri-City Citizen

Milo Bauder doesn’t like controversy, and most of the time he can avoid it. Over a period of several decades he has quietly created some of the finest housing developments in the area that we now call south Richland without becoming as well known as some other local developers.

If his name isn’t exactly a household word to Tri-Citians, many of his projects certainly are — Hills West, Meadow Springs, Westcliffe and Crested Hills among them. On his drawing board now is a project that would be a mix of single-family homes and townhouses on 41 acres just up the hill from his Crested Hills development.

The fact that it’s uphill from existing housing is the reason Bauder’s project named “The Crest” isn’t sailing through the approval process quite as smoothly as previous ones, even though it has been part of the city’s planning for nearly 30 years. It’s on a portion of our area’s ridgeline that is adjacent to Badger Mountain and is often referred to as “Little Badger.” His project would include a road connecting it to the Rancho Reata area.

Develop or preserve?

The Friends of Badger Mountain would like Little Badger to remain undeveloped, and have started a letter-writing campaign in an attempt to sway city planners and council members. The organization is the same group that formed a few years ago and waged a successful campaign to preserve Badger in its natural state. The group has since spearheaded the work of putting in hiking trails to make the big mountain accessible.

But that was then, and this is now. That effort saved a major landmark from development, and this hill may not be considered in the same league. The Friends of Badger Mountain raised $700,000 of mostly public money in a period of a few months to buy Badger Mountain property and set it aside. But is that likely to happen in the case of Little Badger?

“People have strong feelings about preserving open space,” says Sharon Grant, a leader of Friends of Badger Mountain. “We need to identify the special places in our area and work to preserve them.”

Grant estimates that about 1,000 people per week make the hike up Badger Mountain and back. The land is owned by Benton County to be preserved in perpetuity as the Badger Mountain Centennial Preserve. The City of Richland — which also contributed to purchasing the land — has put in a park at the base of the mountain. The park will soon have restrooms, and members of the Friends of Badger Mountain plan to put interpretive kiosks along the trails.

Achieving balance

Paradoxically, preserving all of Little Badger in its natural state would not make it accessible to hikers and nature lovers, according to Bauder. He supports the idea of establishing hiking trails, and his development plan includes donating 27 acres of property on the north slope of the mountain to the city to be used for a trail, as well as providing trail easements on the south side.

“I’m not looking for someone to write me a check for it,” Bauder says. “But there will be no trails and no road to get to the trailheads if I don’t do the project, and that’s a loss to the community. For the open space and trail system to happen, my project has to go forward.”

Before the Richland Planning Commission held an August hearing on the project, the Friends of Badger Mountain seemed to agree. In a message to supporters, the group called for “smart development that incorporates both preservation of open space and integrated trail systems.“

The group is interested in developing trails from what is now called the Badger Mountain Centennial Preserve all the way down the hill to the Amon Creek Basin that flows into the Yakima River. Such a trail is included in the city’s 2006-2011 Parks, Trails and Open Space Master Plan, and Grant and members of her group see it as a step toward creating a “ridges to river” trail system.

Traffic concerns

Opponents of Bauder’s new housing project, including nearby residents, have employed a tactic that’s now almost standard procedure in cases such as this — complaining about additional traffic. Consequently, at the August 23 hearing the Planning Commission asked him to do another traffic study.

Bauder has initiated the new study, but he says if the level of controversy over his project is raised further he will hold off on The Crest.

"I have other projects to do,” Bauder says. “I don’t have to do this one."

Joining the Trails

By Nathan Isaacs, Herald staff writer There was no golden spike to hammer into the ground when two work parties met Sunday morning, joining together the two ends of a two-mile trail on Badger Mountain they built over the weekend. Instead, "We had lunch," said Jim Langdon, hiking trailmaster with the Friends of Badger Mountain. More than 70 people worked Saturday and Sunday in building the multiuse trail, which will be used by mountain bike riders, horseback riders and hikers.   item7 Photo by Herald/Richard Dickin The Friends of Badger Mountain coordinated the project, which was paid for through a $10,000 grant from REI. Representatives from Washington Trails Association helped in the project too. The Badger Mountain Skyline Trail begins at the 574-acre Badger Mountain Centennial Preserve's west entrance along Dallas Road and follows the ridgeline to where the antennas can be seen on top of the mountain. The new trail complements a 1.1-mile trail constructed last year. Both traverse through the preserve and offer views of the Tri-Cities, Columbia and Yakima rivers, Horse Heaven Hills, and even the peaks of Rainier, Adams and Hood on a clear day. "This is going to be a great trail," said Daniel Edwards, 17, of Kennewick, and one of several Boy Scouts from Troop 190 in Richland that helped build the new trail. He said the scouts were earning service credit toward their 50-mile badges. He said building the trail was an enjoyable experience, despite Sunday's wind, rain and cool temperatures. He and the other scouts hiked the existing trail several times a week with loaded backpacks in preparation for a 50-mile hike they did earlier this year (also required for their 50-mile badges). He said the new trail will give hikers more options on Badger Mountain. An exact number isn't available, but some estimate that as many as 1,000 people climb the existing trail each week, Langdon said.

He said that while the new trail needs some finishing touches, including gravel being laid in spots, it is open for use.

Trail Blazer – Badger Mountain is a peak performance

Hikers used to the likes of trails on Mount Rainier or Mount Adams might consider Benton County's Badger Mountain more of a molehill than a mountain. Yet many Tri-Cities residents are enjoying a "peak" outdoor experience on the 1,580-foot summit, which only recently was opened to general public use. The 1.1-mile trail constructed last year leads through the 574-acre Badger Mountain Centennial Preserve to a broad vista point. Spread below the summit are the broad waters of the Columbia River as well as its major tributaries, the Yakima and Snake rivers. Nearby Richland and Kennewick are easily seen along with Pasco, somewhat more distant. On clear days, look for snow-capped Cascade peaks such as Mount Rainier, Mount Adams and Mount Hood. Gaze east to the Blue Mountains. Contrasting with the residential and commercial development lapping at the flanks of Badger Mountain are farms and undeveloped lands to the south and west. The views bring many of the visitors to the summit, but that's not the only reason to travel the Badger Mountain Trail, according to Mark Hoza, who co-chaired the effort to have the land purchased and opened to the public for hiking. "It gives you the chance to kind of get out of the city without really leaving it," Hoza said. An added bonus is the physical exercise it provides. Although the distance is rather short, the grade is fairly stiff and, Hoza said, provides hikers with "a good, healthy workout." The impetus for purchasing the land resulted from hikers losing access to the hilltops near the Tri-Cities, Hoza explained. He and other members of the recreation group known as IMAC had traditionally done a New Year's hike up the slopes of Badger Mountain for some 50 years. But a few years ago the group was told to stay off the privately-owned peak. So the hikers switched to nearby Red Mountain, where they were eventually deterred by objections from a private landowner. "That got people fired up," Hoza said. "We decided to do something to ensure we could hike on the nearby ridges." After investigating different means of gaining such access, it was decided to pursue the purchase of the 574-acre Badger Mountain property. State and local monies were obtained to cover the $685,000 purchase price of the property, which includes most of the summit and the north-facing slopes and much of the south-facing slopes. Construction of the 1.1-mile trail up Badger Mountain was largely accomplished in a joint work day with the Washington Trails Association. Eighty-two volunteers participated, digging out trail and covering much of it with gravel. Numerous "scratch trails" already existed on the Badger Mountain slopes, but these were just social trails which led to erosion of the hillsides, Hoza said. The single trail established last year was designed to accommodate a large number of hikers and prevent the types of erosion problems common to previous trails. Benton County is working on a master plan for the property which will address issues involving additional trail development, as well as the types of use that will be allowed on these trails, Hoza said. He noted that an additional segment of trail allowing a loop hike is one development being pursued. It is hoped that the plan will be completed by the end of summer. Work on the one trail up Badger Mountain is continuing to widen the tread, but volunteers are showing up on weekdays because so many people are on the trail weekends. The volunteer effort and future projects are being conducted through a group known as the Friends of Badger Mountain. Hoza, vice president of the group, said the organization is still small but should grow as it reaches out to the community for support. Hoza said the same people who prompted the effort to preserve Badger Mountain from development are also interested in preserving other nearby ridges such as Candy Mountain and Red Mountain. This is an excellent time of year to hike the Badger Mountain Trail since spring wildflowers tend to bloom in April and May. Grasses on the peak's slopes also add a touch of vibrant green to the hillsides. Given the trail's brief distance, a hike up Badger Mountain only takes an hour or so. So it works for a Sunday afternoon or even a summer evening outing. You can combine it with a trip to the REI store in Kennewick or investigate some of the paved pathways in the Tri-Cities. These routes offer locations for walking or biking. We discovered the Badger Mountain Community Park along Keene Road, which offers picnicking facilities, playground equipment for kids and access to a paved trail. The park is not far from the trailhead for the Badger Mountain Trail, a drive of some 70 miles from Yakima. A few switchbacks take you uphill and then the route leads into a gully. The tread crosses the head of the gully and angles up a side hill before turning again and crossing a hilltop. Then the trail descends slightly and bends to head directly toward Badger Mountain and the various communication towers which pepper its summit. Here you see first-hand the kind of erosion problem Hoza previously described. A deep trough leads straight up the peak and ribbon closes off this badly eroded route. Instead the trail makes a long switchback, taking you to the top. At the time of our visit the upper terminus of the trail was not only marked by a small sign, but also a pile of gravel and a stack of wheelbarrows. We followed road tracks past one of the towers and then looked south over the farm country and undeveloped lands, which offer a pleasing contrast to the extensive development to the east of Badger Mountain. Hikers could perch here and enjoy a snack while taking in the marvelous views. It is not necessary to reach the top of the peak to enjoy vistas. Even the lower hilltop gives visitors great panoramas of the features in and around the Tri-Cities. * Ron Graham, an elementary school teacher and native of the Yakima Valley, is an avid outdoorsman who has hiked throughout the Pacific Northwest. If you go What: Badger Mountain. Where: Near Richland in Benton County. How: From Interstate 82, take Highway 182 toward Richland. Turn off at exit 13 (West Richland) and head south on Queensgate Drive. Then take a left on Keene Road before turning right on Shockley Road. Drive uphill through residential developments to the road's end and park on the side. Walk directly toward the hill (mountain) and you'll find the trailhead sign. What to remember: Take your time since the trail is fairly steep and carry water. Sunscreen and a hat are recommended. An early start would be better, especially as summer starts, and be aware that you may encounter rattlesnake on the hillsides.