An avid snowmobiler who's been building and maintaining forest trails for 20 years has been named Public Lands Volunteer of the Year by the Bureau of Land Management's Medford District.

An avid snowmobiler who's been building and maintaining forest trails for 20 years has been named Public Lands Volunteer of the Year by the Bureau of Land Management's Medford District.

Gene Bowling, 70, of Medford, received the award Sept. 13 during the BLM's annual Land Days celebration at Hyatt Lake.

"My wife says I can't afford all this volunteering," Bowling says with a laugh. The sheet metal welder often puts in more than 40 hours a week whacking roadside brush and moving fallen trees out of the way, turning an old logging road into a new snowmobile route.

"About 99 percent of our snowmobile trails are on existing road beds that the BLM and Forest Service would like to close," says Bowling. Outdoor clubs such as the Rogue Snowmobilers — of which Bowling has been a member since the 1970s — step in and serve as caretakers for the roads.

Dennis Jordan of Rogue Snowmobilers says Bowling is quick to volunteer even if the trail is for cross-country skiers, mountain bikers or hikers.

In 1990, Bowling was instrumental in founding the Multiple-Use Trail Coalition, which brought snowmobilers, Nordic skiers, motorcyclists, mountain bikers, hikers and horseback riders together to improve trails, build shelters and understand each other's perspectives. The coalition now includes everyone from dog-sled enthusiasts to all-terrain vehicle users.

In the past decade, Bowling has helped build, rebuild or modify eight snow shelters.

"The Claude Lewis Trailhead shelter was the most spectacular thing we've ever done," he says. Bowling and his crew of 73 volunteers built the large one-room hut with concrete floor, benches and woodstove near Diamond Lake to give snowmobilers and cross-country skiers shelter from an unexpected storm or just a warm place to take a break. The half-ton trusses were built in his backyard.

One year, he revved up his snowmobile and helped rescue some skiers who had become lost inside Crater Lake National Park during a storm.

Currently, Bowling is using his expertise as a metal worker to help the Boy Scouts design and build ladders for water troughs on horse trails. The ladders will keep squirrels and other small animals from drowning in the troughs.

For his volunteering, as well as for his service as a board member, Bowling was awarded the 2007 Snowmobiler of the Year by the Rogue Snowmobilers.

Bowling says he sees his efforts as an investment for the future.

"Without volunteers, there will be no motorized-use trails left for my grandkids," he says.

Paul Hadella is a freelance writer living in Talent. Reach him at talenthouse@charter.net.