Bechtel National helped celebrate the 10th anniversary of Badger Mountain on Friday by donating $100,000 to the volunteer group instrumental in the creation of the popular hiking area.
The donation will help Friends of Badger Mountain’s fundraising campaign to buy more than 200 acres on Candy Mountain. The group still has about $55,000 left to reach its $1.5 million goal.
The land purchase is part of a larger plan to build a 20-mile ridge trail system across Little Badger, Badger, Candy and Red mountains.
More than 50 people gathered at Trailhead Park on Friday to celebrate the last decade and to share their enthusiasm for the future of an expanded trail system.
People continue to flock to the trails on Badger Mountain, increasing its use 5 to 8 percent each year, said Adam Fyall, sustainable development director for Benton County.
More than 200,000 visits were recorded last year on the 1,600-foot mountain that has four official trails.
That makes Badger one of the most hiked mountains in the entire state, said David Comstock, president of the Friends of Badger.
“The popularity of the park has just been absolutely outstanding,” he said. “It’s way beyond anything we expected.”
Donations, grants and mitigation funds allowed Benton County to buy the original 570 acres from Sheldon Shore in 2005. Land has since been added, bringing the total acreage to just under one square mile. There are four official trails on the mountain.
For a decade, Friends of Badger have been the lead organization developing the mountain, maintaining its trails and ensuring the preserve thrives, Fyall said.
Friday’s celebration also was a chance for community members to show their support for the group.
“Friends has always been there all the way through,” Fyall said. “They have always made good on their promises. They have always tried to push harder, do more and do better.”
Comstock said they are confident they will receive a state grant at the end of this month for the Candy Mountain land and will have raised enough matching money. CH2M Hill is another major contributor, pledging $100,000 every year for five years.
He said people could see trail development on Candy Mountain as early as next year.
“Our goal is to buy the land by the end of this calendar year and then create a new Benton County park for Canyon Mountain,” he said. “Then we will be able to start looking at trail construction for next spring.”