Like most trails to the top of North Idaho peaks, the path on the south side of Chilco Mountain originally was built for access to a Forest Service fire lookout.
The Chilco lookout was razed long ago. The trail, which gains 1,500 feet in 2 miles, hasn’t been maintained for 15 years, even though the route is quite popular with hikers, motorcyclists and horsemen. “It’s a shame,” said Jack O’Brien, a hiker from Coeur d’Alene. “The trail could be a pleasant hike, with great views of Hayden and Coeur d’Alene lakes. You can see Mount Spokane and Scotchman Peak and the Cabinets in Montana.
But O’Brien isn’t content to complain about the trail’s condition. He’s trying to organize hikers to join bike clubs and equestrians into a massive work party on June 29.
Under supervision of the Fernan Ranger District, volunteers would make a start on a what could be a lengthy project. Up to 70 water bars must be installed to check erosion and virtually all of the 2-mile trail needs widening or leveling.
The Forest Service is trying to secure a grant to relocate two sections of the trail.
“The Forest Service has received commitments for help from motorcyclists and horsemen, but hasn’t been able to link up with any hikers,” said O’Brien, who’s made it a personal mission to make the work project a success.
With state and federal recreation budgets in dire straits this year, a few people are stepping out of the shadows to organize volunteer work parties for trail projects.
Mike Brixey, a mountain biker who regularly rides in Riverside State Park, said he’s not sitting around waiting for government work crews to shape up trails.
“It’s not going to happen,” he said. “The park doesn’t have the people to do it.”
So Brixey has asked local bike shops to help him recruit volunteers for a trail work party next weekend.
“Some of the areas have really taken a beating,” Brixey said, referring both to use and to blowdown trees. “Through word of mouth, I already have 20 people committed to come. We’d like more.”
The Spokane Winter Knights snowmobile club had an outing Saturday to pick up litter along the roads at Mount Spokane.
The Inland Empire Chapter of Backcountry Horsemen, a perennially active trail maintenance organization, was scheduled to be cleaning at the Fishtrap Lake area Saturday in preparation for a riding event next weekend. They also have trail projects in the Salmo-Priest Wilderness, the Blue Mountains and on Mount Spokane.
“The Horsemen is a different kind of group,” Rosslow said. “It’s not just a trail-riding group. Many people join us for the work parties. They want to be in the mountains and they enjoy the sense of accomplishment in seeing a trail cleared and bridges built. “They’re also are the ones who realize they have a struggle ahead to keep trails maintained and open to multiple use.”
, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: JOIN THE GROUP Organizers are calling on volunteers for numerous trail maintenance projects this spring. Among them: Mountain bikers will meet 9 a.m. on May 11 at Bowl and Pitcher area of Riverside State Park. Info: Mike Brixey, 327-2630. The Inland Empire Nordic Club has scheduled four work parties to clear a new ski trail around Quartz Mountain at Mount Spokane State Park. Spring dates are May 18 and June 8. Meet 9 a.m. at Selkirk Lodge. Info: Bob Hyslop, 448-2404. Backcountry Horsemen will labor at Mount Spokane on June 1. Meet 9 a.m. at Bald Knob Campground. Horsemen plan work parties for other areas ranging from Salmo-Priest Wilderness in Pend Oreille County to WenahaTucannon Wilderness in Columbia County. Info: Phil Bolich, 466-3693. Hikers, bikers and equestrians will meet 8 a.m. on June 29 at Fernan Ranger Station to restore South Chilco trail. Info: Jack O’Brien, (208) 772-3412.
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