Thousands of hikers who trek up Badger Mountain might have a new, nearby hill to climb.
Two private property owners plan to create a public trail for hikers and horseback riders on the peak next to Badger Mountain.
Mark L. Ufkes of Seattle and Robert Margulies of Richland say they are interested in developing some of their property while still protecting the environment and the contour of Candy Mountain.
The men are working on a plan that would include a cluster development of 40 homes on the east shoulder of the hill, which overlooks West Richland. They hope to leave the top undeveloped, except for a public trail.
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Together, Ufkes, through Candy Mountain Partners, and Margulies, through Factors Unlimited, own about 250 acres, including the top and eastern half of the hill.
They have already begun talking to the Friends of Badger Mountain group about working with the nonprofit and connecting their planned trail to the highly popular hiking trails on Badger.
A public trail on Candy Mountain is a project the Friends of Badger Mountain would definitely be interested in, said Sharon Grant, co-founder of the Badger group.
The Badger group has the vision of ridges to rivers trails, which would mean public trails on Candy and Red mountains, as well as Badger, she said. Last year, there were more than 160,000 visits to Badger Mountain.
Candy Mountain has an elevation of about 1,300 feet, which is about 900 feet higher than the Richland Airport, they said. Badger is more than 1,500 feet.
"The forms have not changed in a millennium," Ufkes said. How they look now is what the Lewis and Clark expedition saw when they traveled through the area in 1805.
"There is something permanent about the grace of those shoulders," Ufkes said.
Although Badger Mountain likely will remain the most popular, each of the ridges offers a different view, Grant said.
Candy Mountain allows people to get a closer look at agricultural land and West Richland, while Red Mountain has views of vineyards, the Yakima River and Horse Heaven Hills.
Such a system would be a boon to the Tri-Cities and the whole region, she said.
The area is lucky to have private landowners with the vision Ufkes and Margulies have, Grant said.
Ufkes, who grew up in Richland, said that what the Friends of Badger Mountain have done with Badger Mountain is extraordinary.
"They are heroes to me," he said.
Margulies said they want to do the same thing -- give the community an opportunity to share the experience of the peak.
People already hike up Candy Mountain, but when they do they are trespassing on private land.
Both men are passionate about outdoor activities. Ufkes is a Boy Scout master and an Eagle Scout, and Margulies has served as a Scoutmaster and Explorer adviser, and now teaches hunter education and National Rifle Association firearm safety.
"It's better for people to have access to those things which are good for us, that's really what this is all about," said Margulies, a retired emergency room doctor at Kadlec Regional Medical Center and Lourdes Medical Center.
Their desire to preserve the skyline of Candy Mountain is why Desert Winds Wireless is using a 55-foot wooden pole on top of it instead of a taller metal tower to provide wireless internet service to West Richland and Benton City.
Desert Winds Wireless, which provides service in Benton and Franklin counties and the Burbank area, started using Candy Mountain to provide service last month, said Dustin DeCoria, the Kennewick company's owner.
DeCoria said a public trail wouldn't affect his company's ability to use the hill.
But there still is a lot of work before a public trail can become a reality.
The property owners need to get permission from Benton County to build a cluster development of about 40 homes. That is what Ufkes said he would prefer instead of the alternative, which is to build 40 homes on five-acre parcels.
Having a cluster development on the lower part of the hill instead would allow them to put the top of Candy Mountain into a conservation easement, Ufkes said. He estimates it could mean about 110 acres undeveloped.
Minimizing the effect of development on the environment is better for everyone, Margulies said.
And Ufkes said they need to talk to West Richland about possibly connecting to city water and sewer services.
They also plan to offer a public meeting with the property owners along the shoulder of Candy Mountain.
The exact path for the trail on Candy Mountain hasn't been planned yet. Ufkes said they could try to connect it to Dallas Road or Arena Road.
"There isn't any other place in the Tri-Cities that has this opportunity," Margulies said.