Work has started on a new 2.5-mile trail on the south side of Badger Mountain.
The new trail will start and end from the existing Skyline Trail, traversing the lower part of Badger's southern slope, above a nearby orchard.
It's been planned for years and is moving forward after the company that owns the orchard -- Premiere Columbia Properties -- agreed to allow the trail to pass through a section of its land at no cost.
"We're thrilled at the way it worked out," said David Comstock, vice president of the nonprofit Friends of Badger Mountain.
It should take about two weeks to build a rough version of the new trail, with help from a small excavation machine, said Jim Langdon, trailmaster for Friends of Badger.
The trail will open up once that phase is completed, with further work -- from smoothing the trail bed to adding gravel -- done in the following weeks, he said.
The hope is to have the new trail finished by the end of April, Langdon said.
He and other volunteers are doing the work, and more help is needed. The trail construction is being paid for with a portion of a $10,000 grant from REI.
The trail will be the fourth major trail in the Badger Mountain Centennial Preserve, which was established in 2005 and now totals about 650 acres.
Benton County owns and operates the preserve, while Friends of Badger has coordinated construction and maintenance of the trails.
The Badger preserve is the most popular park in the county's inventory and one of the most popular recreation spots in the region. Last year, about 200,000 visits were recorded.
Officials said the new trail will further enhance the offerings at the preserve. "I think that folks, when they get on this trail ... it's a whole different experience than they have elsewhere on the mountain," with different views and even some different plants and wildlife, said Adam Fyall, the county's sustainable development coordinator.
People will be able to use it on its own for a gentler, less steep hike or bicycle/horseback ride, and also use it as part of longer routes in combination with other existing trails, officials said.
The county is in the midst of developing a management and master plan to guide use and shape future improvements at the preserve. A Spokane-based community planning and design firm is helping with the process, and the county held a pair of public workshops last year to gather input.
Fyall said he expects a draft of the plan to be rolled out in April, with plenty of time for public comment before it's finalized. More information about the plan process is at tinyurl.com/BadgerPlan.
To help with the construction of the new trail, email Langdon at Trailmaster@friendsofbadger.org or call 943-3992.
To suggest a name for the new Badger Mountain trail, email firstname.lastname@example.org.