Badger group is $600K away from key land deal

The all-volunteer group that developed the popular hiking trails on Badger and Candy mountains is $600,000 away from repeating its magic on Little Badger Mountain. 

Friends of Badger Mountain is turning to Tri-City businesses and other supporters to help it close a $1.5 million agreement to buy nearly 20 acres below the summit of Little Badger Mountain. 

It has raised about $900,000 to date to purchase the property, which is the lynchpin to completing the future Little Badger Mountain Preserve and Trail. 

The Little Badger link

The trail will rise from the future extension of Queensgate Drive toward  a pair of water tanks at the top of Little Badger, where residential development is happening fast. 

In time, Little Badger will serve as a link in a series of ridgeline trails that will connect Amon Basin at the Richland-Kennewick border with the Yakima River near Benton City by way of Little Badger, Badger, Candy and Red mountains. 

Marc Spinner, president of Friends of Badger Mountain, predicts the newest link will be the most popular. It offers the shortest and easiest climb and the best views. 

“This is the highest point and the nicest view in all of the city of Richland,” he said. I think you will see more use at this one than any of our others.”  

The site is owned by a Richland couple through a limited liability company who have agreed to sell the parcel to Friends of Badger Mountain. The nonprofit has until fall to close the deal.  

Friends of Badger Mountain has secured 70% of the land it needs for the Little Badger undertaking through a series of donations and outright purchases. It regularly turns the land over to the city of Richland, which oversees the parks.  

Badger Mountain

Courtesy of Friends of Badger Mountain

Volunteers begin trail development

Volunteers have begun developing the newest trail on sections of land it already owns on the west side, Spinner said. 

One stretch crosses a sensitive area and will require the expertise of a professional engineering firm. That should occur this summer, Spinner said. Construction of the eastern section, dubbed the Saddle Trail, begins this fall. 

Time is of the essence to raise money and secure the propertyIf the deal does not close, the site could be sold for private development. 

“The area is going to go through a lot of development. That’s why we’re jumping now,” Spinner said.  

Community support

Spinner praised Pahlisch Homes and the Bauder family, which are both involved with ridgetop development, for their support and continuing cooperation. 

The trail snakes across the site, which also will offer a public parking lot. Spinner said local developers wanted a parking lot to deter visitors from using neighboring streets. 

Friends of Badger Mountain has built an impressive record since it launched in 2005 with a mission to preserve open space and promote outdoor recreation and economic activity.  

With support from the community as well as lead donations from CH2M, Bechtel and Recreational Equipment Inc., it has procured 900 acres and developed 19 miles of trail.  

Badger Mountain Centennial Preserve debuted in 2008 and tallied 44,000 visitors in its first year. Candy Mountain Preserve opened in 2017. By 2019, an estimated 310,000 visitors had trekked the two trails. 

The city of Richland finished work on new steps at the trailhead for Badger Mountain Centennial Preserve. Friends of Badger Mountain is working to extend the trail to Amon Creek on one side and the Yakima River on the other. (Photo by Melanie Hair)

Summitpost.org, a website devoted to climbing, reported that Badger Mountain records up to 2,500 people at its summit each week, making it one of the “most summited peaks” in Washington state. Its main trail rises nearly 1,580 feet and is open year-round.  

Candy Mountain offers a gentler climb to the top and includes an even gentler, 1.2-mile interpretive loop on the lower, flatter section that features metal interpretative signs welded by Columbia Basin College students. 

The Little Badger Preserve will connect to the Badger Centennial Preserve to the west, which in turn links to Candy Mountain via Dallas Road.  

Spinner said the Friends group is ready to complete the east or “back side” of Little Badger, which will descend to the Amon Creek Basin between Leslie and Steptoe. 

How to help

Go to friendsofbadger.org for more information about the trail system plans and to contribute to the Little Badger Mountain Preserve campaign. Donations can be made online or by sending checks to Friends of Badger Mountain, P.O. Box 24, Richland, WA 99352.

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