Friends of Badger Mountain readies its new vineyard trail for a fall debut
The local nonprofit that built public trails on Badger and Candy mountains is preparing to open a new trailhead as it presses for a 20-mile through-trail linking Amon Basin and the Yakima River by way of Little Badger, Badger, Candy and Red mountains.
Friends of Badger Mountain, which marked its 15th anniversary in June, will celebrate by opening its newest trail this fall. The Red Mountain Vineyard Trail should open by Thanksgiving, said Sharon Grant, a member of the board and spokeswoman.
The newest trail follows a recent win for local hikers: The city of Richland completed its drawn-out project to replace the uneven steps at the trailhead to Badger Mountain Centennial Preserve this spring.
The project was partially completed in April 2019, leaving a steep gap in the path. For the next year, most visitors detoured around the closed section. Heartier souls scrambled the steep hillside beside the closed trail.
Badger Mountain made its debut in 2005, thanks to a partnership between the all-volunteer conservancy-minded nonprofit and Benton County. The team followed that up with a new trail network on Candy Mountain in 2017.
More than 310,000 people used the two mountains in 2019. Four out of five hikers live in the Tri-Cities, according to a survey by Richland park rangers.
Friends of Badger Mountain has long had Red Mountain in its sights. Unable to secure a corridor across its privately owned ridgeline, it lowered its focus to the vineyards below.
The Red Mountain Vineyard Trail will carry the ridge-to-ridge trail through vineyards of the popular wine grape growing area. Hedges Winery in Benton City built its first section.
The final “ridge” is Little Badger Mountain, which is in the city of Richland.
The 3.5-mile trail will extend from the Sagebrush Trail on the eastern boundary Badger Mountain through the “saddle” to Little Badger, which boasts Richland’s highest elevation.
Friends of Badger Mountain planned to begin raising the $500,000 in January to buy the remaining 21 acres to complete the trail.
That is on hold because of the Covid-19 crisis although donations can be made online through friendsofbadger.org/little-badger-mountain.
The city of Richland set aside $200,000 in lodging taxes to support the project.