The Friends of Badger Mountain picked up another 48 acres for its preserve this week.
Two parcels, amounting to 23 and 25 acres on the south-facing slope, are being added to the preserve through purchases from private landowners arranged by the Friends.
The deals, which are the culmination of several years of effort, bring the Badger Mountain Preserve's size to 647 acres, a little more than 1 square mile.
Sharon Grant, president of the Friends of Badger Mountain, said the acquisitions will make it possible to extend the trail system on the mountain to the south side, and to expand public access opportunities for hikers, mountain bikers and equestrians.
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Thomas Jackson and Mark Noyes sold the separate parcels to Friends of Badger Mountain for undisclosed prices, but the land is being turned over to Benton County for ownership, as was done for the rest of the preserve.
"Friends of Badger Mountain produces the money and we are the caretakers, but the land is owned by the county. We could not have done any of this if the county had not agreed to accept the land," Grant said.
Grant said the two land sales represent what was left of 73 acres on the south side that the Friends of Badger Mountain sought out beginning in 2005 after purchasing the initial 574-acre parcel.
Tyler Wagner sold his 25 acres to the Friends of Badger Mountain last year.
Grant said Noyes, Wagner and Jackson owned their parcels with the idea of building homes on them, but there were insurmountable access issues, so the properties were virtually undevelopable.
"That put us in a good position to bargain," she said.
The land immediately south of the parcels is in orchards but might become developed in homes, she noted.
More details about the land deal and possible future projects on the south-facing slopes will be shared at the Friends of Badger Mountain annual meeting Jan. 29 at the Goose Ridge Winery, Grant said.
"We want to see if we can develop a new trail system that would link to our other trails. Last year we had 100,000 users of our trails through mid-October. That really surprised us," she said.
"We are really pleased that Badger Mountain is so easily accessible because it is so popular with people from all over the Tri-Cities," she added.
Friends of Badger Mountain have events planned for early this year on the mountain trail system.
They include education sessions in the spring about plants on Badger Mountain and a Badger Mountain Challenge for hikers and runners.
More information about the events and Friends of Badger Mountain is available at www.friendsofbadger.org.