Friends of Badger Mountain trail blazer honored as Tri-Citian of the Year

Friends of Badger Mountain trail blazer honored as Tri-Citian of the Year

Sharon Grant, the indefatigable conservationist who co-founded Friends of Badger Mountain, is the 52nd Tri-Citian of the Year.

Grant was honored with the community’s highest civic honor at the annual Tri-Citian of the Year banquet, held Thursday night at the Three Rivers Convention Center in Kennewick.

By tradition, her name was kept secret until it was announced by the previous year’s honoree, Lura Powell, the former PNNL director. The award is given by the Tri-Cities’ Rotary and Kiwanis clubs to honor service to the community.

Grant was nominated by some 30 civic, business and government leaders for her role in creating the nonprofit that established the Badger Mountain Centennial Preserve and a growing network of trails providing access to Candy Mountain, Little Badger Mountain and the vineyards of Red Mountain.


Collectively, the “FOBM” network is used by hundreds of thousands of hikers each year.

Casual day hikers and world-class athletes who participate in endurance running events alike flock to the local slopes. The trail network supports millions in visitor spending.

“Sharon Grant’s extraordinary leadership, vision, passion, commitment, and dogged persistence have positively transformed the Tri-Cities in ways few can truly understand and imagine,” the nomination reads. Through her work, she has created a “living legacy for generations to come.”

Grant graduated from Pasco High School, then earned a bachelor’s from the University of Washington and a master’s from George Washington University. She has spent 45 years in the Tri-Cities and worked as a family counselor in addition to championing the outdoors. She and her husband, Steve Ghan, live in Richland.

In addition to co-founding the group, she was its president from 2007-2012 and continues as a board member.


The organization was born out of frustration on the part of members of the Inter-Mountain Alpine Club, including Grant, according to the nomination and to Tri-City Herald archives that document its progress over the years.

For decades, the alpine club organized a New Year’s Day hike to the Badger summit. When “no trespassing” signs appeared on both Badger and Red mountains more than 20 years ago, its members recognized that public access to local ridges was in jeopardy.

In 2004, a year after FOBM formed, Grant told the Herald a property owner had been blunt: “The only way you’re going to hike these hills is if you buy them.”

By then, the group had an agreement with a sympathetic landowner willing to sell 574 acres on the crest and slopes of the 1,580-foot Badger Mountain.

The young group raised $750,000 to buy the land, then convinced government leaders to invest in saving the mountain.

Grant is credited with dogging the Benton County Commission to purchase the Badger Mountain property with money raised by the group. She met with commissioners seven times before they voted — unanimously — to support the deal.

“(H)er tenacity and stick-to-itiveness paid off,” the nomination said.

The city of Richland supplied $100,000. Benton County provided $25,000. The state Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council provided $485,000 from its shrub-steppe habitat preservation budget.

Badger Mountain Centennial Preserve was born with trail heads on either side of the ridge and a network of crisscrossing routes to the top.

The 650-acre Badger Mountain Preserve was formally created in 2006 and deeded to Benton County.

Badger Mountain is the region’s most prominent landmark. Grant has described it as a “beacon” that welcomes visitors and residents alike.

Today, it is one of Washington state’s post popular destinations for casual hikers, trail runners, mountain bikers and wildflower enthusiasts alike.


Friends of Badger Mountain didn’t stop at Badger Mountain.

It took on Candy Mountain, Little Badger Mountain and even Red Mountain. Its goal is to increase public access and to create a regional trail. Grant remains at the forefront, fielding public and media questions about its work and steering inquiries to the people best equipped to answer questions about fundraising campaigns, land deals, trail construction and more.

It leveraged its Badger Mountain success to take on neighboring Candy Mountain. In 2016, it completed a $1.5 million campaign to establish the Candy Mountain Preserve, which opened in 2017. The trail networks connect via Dallas Road along the Richland/West Richland border.

Little Badger Mountain was its next target.

Grant is credited with persuading a property owner to donate 44 acres to build a trail to its summit. Construction began in 2020.

Today, the Badger and Little Badger trails connect below the Badger summit. The Little Badger Mountain Preserve added 75 acres to the trail system.


The two-summit stretch is part of a long-term vision to create a 20-mile ridge-to-ridge trail extending from Little Badger, Badger, Candy and Red Mountains between the Amon Basin at the Kennewick-Richland border to the Yakima River.

The project was partly stymied by a Red Mountain property owner who declined to provide summit access. Instead, Friends worked with Red Mountain vineyard owners to create a trail along the mountain’s lower slopes. it is set to open — with some restrictions to protect vineyard operations — in November.

Friends of Badger Mountain is well recognized for its work.

The city of Richland awarded its 2006 “Green Project of the Year.” Visit Tri-Cities, the regional tourism agency, honored it in 2007 and again in 2018 for its impact on tourism. It has been widely profiled in local and national media.

Grant herself was honored a year ago as Tapteal Greenway’s 2023 Tri-Cities Conservationist of the Year.

“Her legacy is a singular showcase — a free, public park with wide open spaces and remarkable expansive views,” the nomination notes. “What would Tri-Cities be like if we didn’t get to enjoy Badger Mountain? What would Tri-Cities be like without Sharon Grant?”

The Tri-City Herald created Tri-Citian of the Year in 1962 to honor exceptional Tri-Citians for their service to the community.

It fell inactive during the 1970s and again during the COVID-19 era, but has been given annually to some of the most prominent members of the community.

Tri-Cities Kiwanis and the Rotary clubs took over managing the honor about 1980.

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