After years of permits, planning and political wrangling the first of several mountain bike trails at Leavenworth’s Ski Hill is nearly complete. Yesterday Icicle TV took a tour of the new trail and talked with James Munly, owner of Das Rad Haus bike shop, about the long road to Fruend Canyon.
Munly, the program director of the Central Washington Chapter of the Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance (EMBA) is the trail lead for the project; working with the USFS, organizing equipment, volunteers and work parties. Not to mention putting shovel to dirt. “It’s been a labor of love, sometimes more labor than love. I can’t believe it’s finally happening after 20 years. The EMBA has worked closely with the USFS to make these trail happen. This system is 100% funded by private sector donations. That’s putting your money where your mouth is!”
The first trail in the system, which has yet to be named, traverses the slopes above the popular XC ski trails, gaining the ridge crest and looping back to a junction with the popular Fruend Canyon mountain bike trail. Carved from the steep hillside, the trail reveals stunning views of Leavenworth and the Wenatchee valley. ” It promises to be the premiere trail in the area, not only for cyclists, but for hikers as well” said Patrick Walker, Wenatchee Valley Transportation Council Bicycle/ Pedestrian Planner.
Trail work is just that, a lot of work. Inch by inch, a shovel full of dirt at a time, constructing a trail takes an eye of the natural lay of the land and a visionary eye for what could be. A small track hoe and mechanized wheelbarrow make life easier for the all- volunteer workforce, but sometimes the sandstone bedrock needs to be tackled the old fashioned way, with rock breakers and picks. These rocky sections need to be carved out of the stone to allow passage of the heavy equipment.Commuting to the site involves hiking or biking up and down the trail every day. An inspiring way to wake up, but not so easy on backs and legs after months of work. The volunteer workforce is not alone on the trail, bears and deer are frequently sighted in the area. “This morning we followed bear prints on the trail. The bear was walking between us, his prints were on top of Lisa’s footprints.” said Munly. Exciting stuff, and all in a hard day’s work.
The planning process has been equally rigorous and not nearly so exciting. Planning meetings, permits and environmental assessments all had to be completed and signed off by a host of government agencies. The invaluable guidance and support of the Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance, a Seattle based non-profit dedicated to promoting legal mtn. bike trail projects, helped steer the project’s planning phase.
Not the most romantic part of the job, but the end result of the relationship between USFS, non profits, businesses and motivated volunteers will be enjoyed for generations to come. Efforts such as the Ski Hill bike trails come at a cost and in these days of government cutbacks. That usually means a mix of state grant and private sector money. Stay tuned for information about a local fundraiser to support the construction costs. Volunteer work parties have been instrumental in forging the new trail system. Icicle TV tagged along with Mt.Stuart Physical Therapy as they tuned up a rough section of the trail. Despite thundershowers and rain, earlier in the day, the sun came out and everyone had a great time working in the woods.
Pedal Driven, a locally produced full length documentary that chronicles the Leavenworth mountain bike scene’s struggle for legal trails, ends with local trail advocates literately signing the documents that put this trail system on the map. Years later that vision is real. Hard work pays off.
If you or your company are interested in volunteering, contact James directly at email@example.com
Hikers and bikers: The new trail and surrounding trails are still under construction. Heavy equipment and machinery is being operated by volunteer workers. Use caution and proper judgement if you decide to visit the new digs. Stay off the edges of the new trail to prevent erosion. Equestrian users are asked to refrain from using the trail until after the winter to allow the fragile slopes to properly stabilize.