Author - Chris Lindhartsen

Badger Mountain Challenge Participants set to take over Badger Mountain

Local hikers who frequent Badger Mountain might want to give popular trail system a day off on Saturday. The seventh annual Badger Mountain Challenge is set to take over the hill this weekend, with the 50- and 100-mile races beginning Friday, and the 50-kilometer and much more popular 15-K slated for Saturday morning. The 50- and 100-mile races start at 7 a.m. Friday, and runners will spend just a fraction of the race on Badger Mountain. The course then heads to Candy Mountain before running south along Interstate 82. Runners head west at Jacobs Road, climbing McBee Ridge and heading out to Chandler Butte before looping around to retrace the course. The 100-milers do this twice. Last year’s 100-mile winner, Gabe Wishnie of Redmond, finished in 19 hours, 16 minutes, 59 seconds, crossing the line at 2 a.m. More than 70 racers are entered for the big race, 75 for the 50-miler. The 50-K (31 miles) traverses mostly the same course as the longer races but cuts out a loop in the McBee area. Nearly 65 are slated to take part in this race. The popular 15-K race (9.3 miles) has nearly 500 entries and, aside from the start, sticks to Badger Mountain. All races begin on Shockley Road in front of the Bethel Church. The 50-K race starts at 7 a.m. Saturday, with the 15-K hitting the trail at 8 a.m. Proceeds from the event benefit Friends of Badger Mountain, Washington Trails Association, Girls on the Run and Team in Training. Read the original story at the Tri-City Herald.

Friends of Badger Mountain hits a snag in its efforts on behalf of a Red Mountain ridge trail

Dreams of a 20-mile ridge-to-ridge trail stretching from Richland’s Amon Basin to the Yakima River have run into a hitch. (View on Tri-City Herald) The Seattle-based limited liability corporation that owns 138 acres along the ridgeline will not grant a 20-foot pedestrian-only easement for the trail. Benton County property records indicate Red Mountain Ridgeline LLC paid $600,000 for the property in 2008. It is the only one, out of five Red Mountain property owners, to refuse to allow public access across its land, according to Friends of Badger Mountain, the group behind the ridge-to-ridge effort. Without an easement, Friends of Badger Mountain is hard-pressed to fulfill its dream. The proposed trail on Red Mountain begins at Antinori Road and ascends the hill on its southwestern flank, reaching a tower at the ridge. It then would follow the ridge and descend to the Yakima River. In a nod to sensitive agricultural concerns on Red Mountain, Friends of Badger proposed an easement to allow hikers, but not bicyclists or equestrians, on the trail. Without the easement, the trail would end at the tower. “It would stop the trail,” said Sharon Grant, a board member who has worked for almost six years to get access for a Red Mountain trail. Friends of Badger Mountain previously led the efforts to create nature preserves and trails on neighboring Badger Mountain and Candy Mountain. Thanks to the group’s work, Benton County completed an acquisition of property on Candy Mountain in 2016 after collecting donations and a major grant from the state Recreation and Conservation Office. Trail construction began last fall. On Candy Mountain, Friends pursued private and public money to buy the property. On Red Mountain, a lucrative wine grape growing region, the group took a different approach. In consultation with Benton County, it hoped to secure recreation easements from private property owners, as well as the state Department of Natural Lands. “There is no way that we could ever raise the money to acquire land on Red Mountain,” Grant said. Red Mountain’s prominence has been rising for more than two decades. Its unique growing climate led to its 2001 designation as an American Viticultural Area, Washington’s smallest. In 2015, the Kennewick Irrigation District completed a $20 million project to bring Yakima River water to the 1,400-foot mountain’s slopes, further sparking vineyard development. Grant and the group’s attorney said the other owners, including the state Department of Natural Resources, have indicated their support for the trail plan in part because it complements wine-related tourism at Red Mountain. Sarah Goedhart, who has worked with Grant to establish the Red Mountain link, said the winery community endorses the idea, viewing it as highly compatible with wine-related tourism. “This would be good for tourism and wineries and the region in general,” she said. “The top of the mountain is now off limits.” An out-and-back trail wouldn’t bring hikers past the other vineyards and wineries at Red Mountain and it would disappoint users as well, according to Grant. “Once you get people to the top, of course they want to walk along the ridge,” she said. According to corporate registration documents filed with the Washington Secretary of State, Red Mountain Ridgeline is led by Cameron Myhrvold. Myhrvold is a former Microsoft executive who formed, then sold, a software firm to Microsoft. He also co-founded Ignition Partners LLC, a Bellevue firm that invests in early state business-to-business software companies and serves on numerous boards connected to tech firms, according to his public profile on Ignition’s website. His office said he was in Hawaii with family this week. He did not respond to messages emailed in care of his attorney, Taro Kusunose, or Ignition about the access issue. And Friends of Badger Mountain isn’t the only group the Red Mountin Ridgeline owner turned down. Jason Reathaford, who organizes the annual Badger Mountain Challenge, said the property owner also turned down a request from his group. It means the seventh running of the Badger Mountain Challenge will be parallel to the Red Mountain ridgeline instead of running along it. In the first six years, the grueling 50-mile route began at Badger Mountain, went over Candy Mountain, then Red Mountain, and then into the Horse Heaven Hills. Reathaford said it appeared liability is a concern. He’s scrambling to reroute that section of the race through the area between Candy and Red mountains. The alternate route will not be as attractive to serious trail runners, he said. Reathaford expects 700 people to participate in one of the four versions of this year’s race, which is March 24-25. “It’s getting harder and harder to find trails as property turns into (vineyards),” he said. “That’s part of the story of Red Mountain. We need to enjoy the trails and open space as we have them. That’s the point of the trail race.”

Volunteers begin new hiking trail on Candy Mountain

Jim Langdon, trailmaster for the Friends of Badger organization, shares details about a new 1.75 mile hiking trail being scratched out of the ground on Candy Mountain. The organization is seeking volunteers for the anticipated one month project. -Bob Brawdy, Tri-City Herald  

Candy Mountain dream about to come true

Benton County is ready to close a $1.25 million deal this week with Candy Mountain property owners that will preserve the local peak as a natural area and park. Friends of Badger Mountain and the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office are funding the deal, which will turn Candy Mountain into a twin of sorts to the popular Badger Mountain Centennial Preserve. In a procedural step, Benton County commissioners are expected to approve a resolution giving their chairman authority to sign purchase documents for eight parcels totaling nearly 200 acres when it holds its regularly scheduled meeting at 9 a.m. Tuesday in Prosser. Read the whole article at the Tri-City Herald.  

Benton County to buy Candy Mountain land for preserve

Hikers, mountain bikers and equestrians will soon have legal access to the summit of Candy Mountain. Benton County will buy nearly 200 acres for the Candy Mountain Preserve this spring after the county commissioners signed off on a financial agreement Tuesday. Candy Mountain Preserve is the next link in Friends of Badger Mountain’s vision of a 20-mile network of ridge-top trails that starts at Amon Basin on the Kennewick-Richland border and extends to the Yakima River by way of the summits of Little Badger Mountain, Badger Mountain, Candy Mountain and Red Mountain. Click here for the February 23, 2016 full story in the Tri-City Herald.

Friends of Badger Mountain to Expand Trail System

Friends of Badger Mountain announced at their annual meeting January 30th that it had reached their $1.5 million goal for the Ridge Preservation and Trail Campaign.  The funds raised will create a second ridge preserve on Candy Mountain and a trail link from the west end of the Badger Mountain Centennial Preserve to the summit of Candy Mountain. “A second open space mountain preserve will help make our area a regional destination for outdoor recreation.” said David Comstock, President of FOBM. FOBM partnered with Benton County to receive a $695,000 matching grant from the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office.  Today, 2-23-16, the Benton County Commissioners officially approved the RCO project agreement for this matching grant. Working with the county as the ultimate owner of the expanded trail system, FOBM will next finalize purchase and sales agreements with two landowners on Candy Mountain; start designing and building the new trailhead parking lot; and then design and construct a public trail to the summit. Businesses that contributed significantly to the campaign include CH2M Hill, Bechtel National, REI and 14 other local businesses. Strong support also came from the Nomad Trail Runners and the Inter-Mountain Alpine Club.  The Tri-Cities community rallied to this cause and their incredible generosity made this fundraising campaign a rousing success. Acquisition of 195 acres on Candy Mountain to create a new preserve is the third successful milestone reached by FOBM, a non-profit citizen organization started in the Tri-Cities in 2003.   Its first achievement was raising the funds in 2004-5 to set aside 574 acres of Badger Mountain, which was named by Benton County as the Badger Mountain Centennial Preserve.  In 2010-2011, FOBM raised funds to add 74 acres to the Badger Mountain preserve. Since then FOBM volunteers have built and maintain four trails on Badger Mountain.  With support from volunteers again, FOBM hopes to have the new trail on Candy Mountain open fall of 2016. “As an all-volunteer organization, we only succeed in preserving land as open space and for outdoor recreation with the generosity of our supporters,” said Sharon Grant, co-founder of FOBM.  Although FOBM reached its fundraising goal for the Candy Mountain trail expansion, Grant said that continued community support is still very much appreciated. “As FOBM is dedicated to creating a system of ridge trails connecting from Amon Basin to the Yakima River in the west, there are several critical links we still need to preserve,” Grant explained. A grand opening of the new preserve and trailhead will be scheduled for later this year.  The public will be notified.  Check FOBM’s website and Facebook page for updates and information:   xxx   David Comstock, Friends of Badger Mountain, 509-521-8226 Sharon Grant, Friends of Badger Mountain, 509-783-6558

Tri City Herald “Thumbs Up”

Leaders with vision

For more than a decade the Friends of Badger Mountain have been working to provide public access to the summit of Candy Mountain. That access is a critical piece in group’s vision of a 20-mile network of ridge-top trails that starts at Amon Basin on the Kennewick-Richland border and extends to the Yakima River by way of the summits of Little Badger Mountain, Badger Mountain, Candy Mountain and Red Mountain. Tuesday, Benton County commissioners approved an agreement to buy eight Candy Mountain parcels for $1.4 million, securing that access. The land purchases are being paid for by $695,000 from Friends of Badger and matched by a grant from the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office. Friends of Badger raised more than $850,000 with lead gifts of $300,000 from CH2M Hill Plateau and $100,000 from Bechtel National. Thumbs up to the Friends of Badger Mountain and the Benton County commissioners for their vision.

Construction Begins on Badger Mountain Trailhead Parking Area

Officials broke ground Monday for a new 50-space parking lot at Trailhead Park for the Badger Mountain hiking trails in Richland. More than 200,000 visits were recorded last year on the 1,600-foot mountain, making it one of the most hiked mountains in the state. Lack of parking leads many visitors to park on Queensgate Drive, causing problems for residents. Tri-City Herald article