Badger Mountain group on $1 million mission

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.

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