Nation/World

Volunteers Take Charge Of Maintaining Trails

Back-country horseman Kelly Laga says he doesn’t have a problem getting away from it all.

“It’s rare we see anyone else. It’s also rare that we have good trails,” he said. “No one wants to put up with deadfalls and things.”

North Idaho has hundreds of trails criss-crossing its peaks and valleys, but many miles aren’t very inviting.

The U.S. Forest Service doesn’t have enough money to keep up with all of the trails, and each year the prospects for trail reconstruction and maintenance look bleaker.

The agency estimates that it has a $40 million backlog of trail maintenance and reconstruction that grows every year.

As a result, volunteers are becoming the cement that’s holding the forest trail system together.

Horse and motorcycle clubs often organize their own trail-work parties, and on June 7 the American Hiking Society is promoting National Trails Day.

On that day, the Brush Bunch Motorcycle Club from the Spokane area will work on the Hells Canyon Trail near Hayden Lake.

“A lot of people bad-mouth the motorcyclists, but they’re the only ones who cut these trails out,” Laga said.

Not quite.

Hiker Jack O’Brien has become one of the Fernan Ranger District’s best friends when it comes to sprucing up trails.

Last year, he helped Forest Service recreation specialist Jack Dorrell organize volunteer work parties to improve O’Brien’s favorite route up Chilco Mountain. This year, O’Brien has teamed up with Dorrell to get volunteers to improve Marie Creek trail, near Wolf Lodge Creek.

“I said, ‘This time you pick the trail,’ and he said ‘Marie Creek’ without batting an eye,” O’Brien said.

Marie Creek was an easy choice for Dorrell.

“It’s about 12 miles outside of Coeur d’Alene, but accesses primitive country, old-growth cedar stands,” he said. “You feel like you’re way in the back-country, but you’re right outside of town.”

It’s a good trail for people who don’t have time to get away from it all, but still want to, Dorrell said.

“It’s the kind of trail you can go hike for a few hours and still get back to town for dinner,” he said.

The trail has some steep sections that aren’t easy for children or horses. Volunteers will be out there Saturday to put in switchbacks.

In addition to volunteers, the Fernan Ranger District will have a seven-person trail crew this summer and will hire contractors for maintaining some of the district’s most popular trails.

Much of their time will be spent clearing trails of deadfall and debris from last November’s ice storm, he said.

“It’s sort of a triage,” he said. “We get to the main ones, and if we have time, we’ll get to the other ones.

“There’s always those guys who end up at the low end of the totem pole every year. Those eventually will be dropped from the system.”

Laga and O’Brien would like to see more groups adopt trails to keep them open and prevent everyone from having to use the same trails all the time.

“I get the impression that there are so many places that need help, that if there are warm bodies there won’t be a problem finding jobs,” O’Brien said.

, DataTimes MEMO: Cut in the Spokane edition.

This sidebar appeared with the story: WANT TO HELP? Volunteers for the Marie Creek Trail job can meet at 8 a.m. Saturday, May 31, at the Fernan Ranger Station, 2502 E. Sherman Ave. Bring boots, gloves, water and a lunch.

Cut in the Spokane edition.

This sidebar appeared with the story: WANT TO HELP? Volunteers for the Marie Creek Trail job can meet at 8 a.m. Saturday, May 31, at the Fernan Ranger Station, 2502 E. Sherman Ave. Bring boots, gloves, water and a lunch.



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