Badger Mountain trail work stopped for the summer

Sara Schilling, Tri-City HeraldMay 10, 2014 

Rainbow Badger Mountain

Bettina Pickett of Richland took this photo March 29 from the top of Badger Mountain. She used a Canon T31. Pickett hiked Badger with her husband, four children, ages 2, 4, 7, and 9, and her in-laws.

COURTESY BETTINA PICKETT

A new Badger Mountain trail is about halfway done after volunteers logged more than 1,300 hours of labor this spring. But work is stopping for the summer because the soil has become too dry.

Jim Langdon, trailmaster for the nonprofit Friends of Badger Mountain, which coordinates construction and maintenance of the trails within the Badger Mountain Centennial Preserve, said he hopes the new trail will be done in the fall.

Work should pick up again in late September or early October, he told the Herald.

The partially finished trail isn't open to the public, and Langdon warned that treading on it at this stage will cause damage. "We don't want anyone on it at this time," he told the Herald.

The new trail -- which doesn't yet have a name -- will be the fourth major trail in the Badger Mountain preserve, which is the most popular park in Benton County's parks inventory.

Last year, about 200,000 visits were logged.

The new trail "has got a whole different flavor" than the others, Langdon said.

"It's just above the orchard on the south side. It's very quiet, with more agricultural vistas. It has little ups and downs, but it doesn't gain a lot of elevation. It has twists and turns, so the view is constantly changing. It's a great trail," he said.

The 2.4-mile trail will start and end from the existing Skyline Trail and traverse Badger's southern slope. Premiere Columbia Properties, the owner of the orchard, agreed to let the trail pass through some of its land at no cost -- allowing the long-planned trail project to move forward.

REI grant money is covering construction costs.

The county owns and operates the preserve, and it's been working for months to develop a management and master plan for Badger. Two public workshops have gathered input.

The plan still is in the works but has been delayed a bit. Friends of Badger Mountain earlier this year asked the county to apply for a state grant to create another preserve on nearby Candy Mountain, and an updated comprehensive county parks plan is needed this summer for that process.

The parks plan has leapfrogged the Badger plan for the moment. But Adam Fyall, the county's sustainable development coordinator, said the Badger plan should be done in late summer or fall.

The county is seeking $750,000 from the state Recreation and Conservation Office for Candy Mountain, with Friends of Badger committing to raise another $750,000.

So far, the nonprofit has about $237,000 in hand or pledges, said David Comstock, Friends of Badger vice president. He said the group is excited about the fundraising results so far.

He also praised the volunteers who have helped with the new trail. About 120 volunteers have pitched in altogether, with a core group responsible for about half of the 1,300 hours logged.

Several companies have sent volunteers to help with the trail.

"We totally appreciate the community support," Comstock said, adding that because of the volunteers, "we're at a point where we can successfully compete the trail in the fall."

For more information about Friends of Badger Mountain and fundraising efforts for Candy Mountain, go to www.friendsofbadger.org.

To get on Langdon's volunteer roster, call 943-3992.

-- Sara Schilling: 582-1529; sschilling@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @saraTCHerald

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