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Mile by Mile: Spence Mountain trail network increases

KLAMATH FALLS — The year 2019 has been a good one for members of the Klamath Trails Association and, as a result, good for people who hike, bike, cross country ski and recreate on Klamath Basin trails, including people from the Rogue Valley and others. During the KTA’s annual meeting at the Gaucho Collective in Klamath Falls on Friday, group leaders told about accomplishments. The year-end statistics are impressive, with KTA volunteers putting in 1,535 hours of trail maintenance and 150 days of work, the equivalent of $38,000 in labor. The group performs trail stewardship on 100 miles of trails at Moore Park, the Geo Trail, Spence Mountain, Brown Mountain, Mount McLoughlin and sections of trails in the Sky Lakes, Mountain Lakes and Gearhart Mountain wilderness areas.

Drew Honzel, who helps coordinate efforts at Spence Mountain, said seven miles of new trails were added this year, upping the growing network of mountain biking, hiking and cross country ski trails to 35 miles. The network includes 14 miles of green or easy trails, 17 of blue or intermediate, and four miles of black, or expert trails.

When work on Spence Mountain trails began six years ago, the KTA’s goal was to develop 50 miles of trails, but Honzel said that goal has been upped to 65 miles. Plans for 2020 include rerouting the Shoalwater Trail, building a kiosk at the Shoalwater Bay Trailhead, adding a mile-long green trail near Doak Mountain and adding another route to the summit of Spence Peak along the mountain’s northwest side, an elevation gain of about 1,500 feet.

New trails at Spence added this year include the Queen of the Lake, a 1.9-mile black diamond with views of Upper Klamath Lake; Winema, with a half-mile section of green and 1.3-mile of a “rowdier” blue that connects with Queen of the Lake; and North Star, a 3.4-mile trail that connects with Junction 7 and the Winema Trail.

At Brown Mountain, located south of Highway 140 near Lake of the Woods and Fish Lake, Grant Weidenbach noted the KTA has taken stewardship responsibilities for the Brown Mountain and High Lakes Trails the past four years. Working in conjunction with John and Karen Poole, who have led efforts to maintain the High Lakes Trail between Lake of the Woods and Fish Lake for many years, Weidenbach said volunteers worked 500 to 600 hours last year.

In addition, he said KTA volunteers put in about 200 hours in the Sky Lakes, Mountain Lakes and Gearhart wilderness area. Weidenbach said a priority for 2020 is to “organize and publicize more work parties to give club members and the public opportunities to work on trails in the High Lakes area.

Zach and Lillian Gilmour, owners of Zach’s Bikes, said efforts with a youth mountain biking group, the Jackalopes, continued to expand in 2019. Nineteen teenagers, from middle school to high school seniors, were active and participated in more than 50 practice rides on trails at Moore Park and Spence Mountain. The Gilmours said the number of coaches, who they emphasized do not need to be highly skilled mountain bike riders, has likewise continued to expand. Coaches, team members and other volunteers also helped with trail clearing.

The Gilmours also requested help in recruiting more school-age participants and young riders, noting, “These are the people that are going to fill our ranks through attrition.”

Kevin Jones, the chief advisor on Moore Park projects, said several of the group’s trail upgrades included work on the Hayride boardwalk and installation of trail signs along with various trail work. Another substantial project is a 1-mile segment of a new trail that will connect the Link River Trail near the dam to the Moore Park trails. That project, part of the Sawmill Trail, broke ground in the last week. Construction will be ongoing throughout the winter and spring, with a hoped for completion of next May.

Dennis Taugher, KTA president, noted the group has 90 members and has been successful with fundraising efforts, with $128,000 in various grants and donations. He said the group continues to expand its partnerships. Current partners include Klamath Falls City Parks, Sky Lakes Medical Center, Oregon Tech, Klamath County, Oregon Department of Forestry, U.S. Forest Service (Fremont-Winema and Rogue River-Siskiyou national forests), JWTR, Dirt Mechanics, Linkville Lopers, Discover Klamath, Kinsgley Duathlon and the Crater Lake Century.

The Gilmours presented the KTA board with a check for $4,000 from the Crater Lake Century while Jeremy Morris of the Linkville Lopers presented a check for $1,000 from the Spence Mountain 30 and 50 kilometer Run held last May.

Information about the KTA is available by visiting the group’s website at www.klamathtrails.org or emailing info@klamathtrails.org.

When Klamath Trails Alliance began work on Spence Mountain six years ago, the goal was to build 50 miles of trails, but that goal has been upped to 65 miles. Photo by Lee Juillerat