By next summer, hikers, bikers and horseback riders will be able to circle Shafer Butte on one continuous trail.
On foot, this trip is not for the faint of heart. Its average elevation will approach 6,500 feet. There will be ups and downs. Even a fast hiker will spend about four hours making the 10-mile loop.
But theres a payoff.
Incredible views 360 degrees around the mountain, said Dave Beck, former vice president of Southwest Idaho Mountain Bike Association, which pushed for creation of the Around the Mountain Trail.
A DECADE IN THE MAKING
In the early 2000s, the mountain bike association, the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service and Ridge to Rivers developed the Shafer Butte Trail Master Plan, a document that called for some 30 miles of new trails to augment the roughly 22 miles of existing trails in and around Bogus Basin.
Adding Around the Mountains seven miles will bring the total of new trails to two-thirds of that goal, said David Gordon, program coordinator for Ridge to Rivers.
Ridge to Rivers is a partnership between the city of Boise, Ada County, the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and Idaho Department of Fish and Game, best known for its Foothills hiking and mountain biking trails. Its mission is to develop a network of trails north of Boise thats seamless despite crossing jurisdictional boundaries.
Gordon oversees details of planning, paying for and building the new trail. A $65,000 federal grant administered through Idaho State Parks and Recreation will cover most of the trails projected $100,000 cost. The remaining $35,000 came from sales of maps that Ridge to Rivers offers, as well as donations from the mountain bike association, Bogus Basin and stores that cater to runners and mountain bikers, Gordon said.
The fact that Ridge to Rivers contribution came to 35 percent of the projects total cost helped secure the grant, Gordon said. In the past, he said, he has submitted grant applications offering the minimum 20 percent in matching money, and all of them have been turned down.
BIDS AND BUILDERS
In the next few months, trail builders will begin submitting bids for the contract to build Around the Mountain. Gordon said hes confident the project will attract bids from plenty of contractors, even though the list of qualifications requires bidding companies to have completed at least 50 miles of single-track trails; have experience building bridges; and have at least one person on staff whos licensed to blast rock with explosives.
It may not seem as if $100,000 is much money for a 7-mile trail, but Gordon said it should be enough. If its not, he said, Ridge to Rivers own crews could do some of the work.
As for the cost of maintaining the trail, thats a more difficult calculation. While maintenance is cheap in some years, natural mishaps such as erosion and rock slides can lead to extreme repair costs. That effect is especially pronounced on trails that cross through as much timber as Around the Mountain will.
A MOUNTAINFOR ALL SEASONS
Though mountain bikers were a driving force for the trail, it will be open to all non-motorized use, including trail runners and horseback riders.
I hope that all of those user groups can enjoy it, Beck said.
So far, the people most excited about Around the Mountain seem to be serious trail users who pay close attention to developments of the trail system, said Rich Harris, co-owner of Bandanna Running and Walking in Boise.
But the beauty of a loop around the mountain is that it will encourage visits outside the ski season from the spectrum of outdoor enthusiasts, Harris said. That goes for bikers as well as hikers who are less familiar with Bogus many dry-season trails, he said.
Not everybody wants to ride all the way to the top of the mountain and do a kamikaze ride down, Harris said.
Gordon said the trail isnt designed for snow use, though there will be no efforts to close it during the winter months. Some Boise snowshoers already are salivating at the potential for new trails to explore.
We dont close it, Gordon said. It closes itself.
Sven Berg: 377-6275