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