Tri-City hikers could have a new trail spur on Badger Mountain as soon as this fall.
The Benton County Park Board gave its approval to both projects.
The larger project will add a trail from the east side of the Badger Mountain Preserve, mostly across adjoining land donated to the Friends of Badger Mountain by Mark and Milo Bauder.
Park board approval was needed because the first 30 to 40 feet of the new trail spur is on county property.
The spur will extend from what is now Sagebrush trail to the east, not far from where the Langdon, Skyline and Sagebrush trails meet.
The spur and section of the Sagebrush Trail are expected to eventually be considered part of the Skyline Trail.
It would start the trail system heading to the east toward another high point of the Tri-Cities, Little Badger Mountain.
Friends of Badger Mountain are working on a proposal to bring the trail system to the top of Little Badger Mountain, through a patchwork of agreements for easements, purchases and use of Richland city-owned land.
Getting a trail to the summit of Little Badger may be a year or two away, but the spur trail on Badger Mountain is a step toward that goal, said Jim Langdon, trailmaster for the Friends of Badger Mountain.
The new trail section on Badger Mountain would be roughly a third of a mile long, ending at the sidewalk along Queensgate Drive.
There is no parking where the trail would end, but the sidewalk there is already used by recreational walkers. It would give them an access point to the Badger Mountain Centennial Preserve trail system, Langdon said.
Initial plans were to work on the new spur this fall, but there is some question now about whether all technical issues will be worked out in time for fall work. If the work has to be delayed, it would be done in the spring, Langdon said.
Also, the city of Richland is expecting work this winter to finish trail improvements to replace steps near the east trailhead.
Candy Mountain spur
The Candy Mountain trail spur would be much shorter than the spur planned on Badger Mountain.
That mountain’s trail system includes a fairly flat loop trail that can be started from the parking lot with about 25 plant-identification signs.
Four larger geological interpretation signs are planned.
One would explain “erratics,” or boulders left on Tri-City hillsides by the series of ice age floods that swept through the area from Lake Missoula.
One of the granite boulders, now darkened by lichen, is about 80 feet from the interpretive loop. A spur trail is planned to the erratic with a sign to help hikers understand the Tri-City-area geology.
The spur is a joint project of Benton County the Friends of Badger Mountain and the Ice Age Floods Institute.
Ice age glaciers that moved down from Canada once blocked Lake Missoula, a huge glacial body of water in what’s now northern and western Montana.
As water in the lake built up, it periodically burst through the ice dam and swept across norther Idaho into Washington. As the water flowed south, the Wallula Gap served as a natural dam, backing water up behind it in the Pasco Basin for a few days to a week.
As the water pooled, icebergs bumped up against the sides of the mountains. Then the water receded, and the icebergs became stranded and melted, depositing soil and rock, including the erratics that can be seen today on Tri-City-area hillsides.
In the deepest floods, just the tip of Candy Mountain would have formed a small island.
People willing to volunteer for trail maintenance and building, may contact Langdon at Trailmaster@friendsofbadger.org or 943-3992.