Volunteers dig out new Badger Mountain trail
RICHLAND Steve Ghan slapped a hoe into the hillside on Badger Mountain, clearing away small clumps of grass and brownish dirt to form a narrow strip inside two reddish boundary flags.
Around him, other volunteers carved out chunks of the hillside, uprooted the occasional sagebrush or tamped down dirt Sunday to carve a new multi-use trail on the popular mountain to serve horseback riders, mountain bikers and hikers.
“This is my first time building trail,” said Ghan, of Richland. “It doesn’t take long to get the hang of it. This is wonderful.”
Organized by Friends of Badger Mountain, about 80 volunteers turned out Saturday and at least 45 Sunday to help with trail construction, said Jim Langdon, trailmaster for Friends of Badger Mountain.
The new trail, referred to as the Sagebrush Trail by Benton County, covers at least two miles, Langdon said. It will connect the existing Skyline Trail on the eastern edge of Badger Mountain Preserve, with one segment for horseback riders, mountain bikers and hikers terminating near the water tanks at the base of the mountain.
Another segment, for hikers only, will link with the 1.25-mile Canyon Trail, the heavily used main route up the mountain, providing a convenient loop route for hikers from Trailhead Park on Queensgate Drive in Richland.
“We absolutely need this trail because Canyon Trail gets heavy use,” said Sharon Grant of Richland, president of Friends of Badger Mountain and one of its founders. “We counted over 200 people on the trail in just one hour last Sunday. We get people of all sizes, ages, ethnicities, whole extended families on the trail.
“It’s good, because it is so close and so accessible, so it gets a lot of use,” she said.
An electronic counter set at the base of Canyon Trail showed that 59,000 people used the trail from May 2008 to May 2009, and Grant thinks there is “no question” use has increased since then.
Anecdotal evidence Sunday supported that view. Cars lined both sides of the street by the entrance to Trailhead Park, and the small parking lot was continually full. Waves of hikers worked their way up and down the trail during the balmy afternoon while the volunteers toiled on the trail.
Darcy Waddell of Kennewick dug out a small sagebrush blocking the edge of her section of trail. Waddell is a regular on the Badger Mountain trails, either running or mountain biking, to prepare for the annual Mount Marathon Race on July 4 in Seward, Alaska.
The race, which draws thousands of participants from throughout the world, takes runners on a 1.5-mile climb up and then down Mount Marathon on a course with steep inclines and slippery loose rock.
“This will be my 11th year, so I am really excited they are building the trail here because now I’ll have a place to train,” Waddell said.
After the trail is cut, about 100 tons of gravel will be used to surface it to reduce erosion and cut down dust.
“It (the trail) would turn into flour if we didn’t put down the gravel,” Langdon said.
In spite of the progress made during the weekend, Langdon said he thinks it could be April at the earliest before the project is finished. Volunteers from Tri-City churches participating in the annual Sharefest community service event March 20 will help build more trail, and Langdon said any groups that might want to volunteer can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The project Saturday and Sunday was a cooperative effort by the Washington Trails Association in Seattle, which provided the tools and helped supervise work, the Backcountry Horsemen and the Chinook Bicycle Club.
A $2,000 grant from REI to Rattlesnake Ridge Riders is paying for the gravel, Langdon said. Among the volunteers Sunday were six new employees at the Kennewick REI who chose the trail construction for their team-building project as part of their orientation.