Building trails, community and economic development in North Central Washington
A lot of great community building work happens with little fanfare and is driven by the passionate volunteers who see an opportunity to help the valley rise to a higher level. That certainly describes the ethos and impact of the local chapter of the Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance, which has built partnerships and developed a powerful volunteer network that has resulted in 30 miles of sustainable, quality trails over the past five years.
EMBA has developed a wonderful mountain bike trail system and skills park at Squilchuck that has reinvigorated that local park. EMBA has also built seven miles of trail at Echo Ridge near Manson and performed extensive work in Freund Canyon and Leavenworth Ski Hill. The work has been accomplished because of strong partnerships with land managers like Washington State Parks, the Chelan-Douglas Land Trust and the U.S. Forest Service.
The alliance has become the go-to organization for building and maintaining sustainable trails. With tight federal and state trail building budgets, our local EMBA chapter has been able to develop trails for users in a cost-effective fashion, using volunteer labor. This is just another example of how collaboration and creative partnerships can help us build assets that enrich our community and at the same time contribute to the local economy.
Because of the quality of the trails, this valley is becoming a Mecca for trail runners, mountain bikers and horseback riders. “We work with anybody that wants to have sustainable trails that benefit the community,” Hornby told me. He can tell the work is bringing more tourism. “I used to know pretty much everyone in town with a mountain bike.” “I pretty much don’t know anyone (anymore),” Hornby said. That’s the sweet spot he wants the valley to hit — create opportunities for locals to enjoy the outdoors and at the same time encourage tourism that lifts the economy.
When EMBA first started working in the valley, the trail system was pretty disorganized and many of the trails were susceptible to erosion. Proper trail building was needed. There are some 250 EMBA members in the local chapter that includes a strong group of trail building experts with years of experience. You’ll see them out working on trails in their green EMBA shirts. Be sure to thank them when you see them out on the trail, Hornby said.
I was interested to learn that EMBA is involved with hiker and equestrian-only trails as well as multi-use trails. That’s going to be more important in the future as greater use can lead to user conflicts. Another tremendous development in our local trail system is in the offing. Working with the Forest Service, there is a plan and grant funding in place to develop a trailhead and 30-miles of trails at the upper end of Number 2 Canyon. It’ll be a place with experiences for the whole family, Hornby said.
As a kid growing up, Hornby and his family spent a lot of time visiting our valley and taking advantage of the rich opportunities for recreation here, including skiing at Mission Ridge. When his wife graduated from medical school and had an opportunity to join a pediatric practice in the valley, they jumped at the chance. “The most exciting part for me is seeing the amount of people using the trails,” Hornby said.
Building a volunteer network to create and maintain these trails has other impacts on the community. When community members get involved building trails, they tend to take better care of the land and follow the rules to protect the resource. The organization of the valley’s trail systems is only just beginning and more work needs to be done. But thanks to the Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance and its volunteers, significant progress has been made.