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Trail restoration

Lance Colburn of the Blue Mountain Singletrack Trails Club attaches chicken wire over the top of a small wooden bridge on Skills Trail on Tuesday. The wire will provide traction when the bridge is wet. DICK MASON / The Observer
Lance Colburn of the Blue Mountain Singletrack Trails Club attaches chicken wire over the top of a small wooden bridge on Skills Trail on Tuesday. The wire will provide traction when the bridge is wet. DICK MASON / The Observer

Mountain biking club carries out maintenance work on Skills Trail in Mount Emily Recreation Area

Trails are rivers of life for the outdoor recreationist, allowing one to voyage into forests without disturbing nature’s pulse.

Skills Trail in the Mount Emily Recreation Area is such a path — a trail that will soon have the pulses of mountain bikers racing again.

The trail is being restored and enhanced by the Blue Mountain Singletrack Trails Club. The mountain biking group has been meeting 1-2 times a week since late March to do maintenance work on the trail and enhance it. Once its work is complete in about a month, the trail will again offer mountain bikers one of the best and most challenging routes in Union County.

Sean Chambers, coordinator of the Mount Emily Recreation Area, describes the work being done by the Blue Mountain Singletrack Club and other volunteers on the trail as “pretty priceless.’’

Chambers said that without the help of the club and others, progress in developing MERA would would be advancing much more slowly.

“Every bit of help is greatly appreciated. They are not hesitating to get out there,’’ Chambers said.

Skills Trail is on the east side of MERA off Igo Lane. It was created seven or eight years ago and was so named because it takes advanced ability for a mountain biker to complete it, said Lance Colburn, a member of the Blue Mountain Singletrack Trails Club and the MERA Non-Motorized Advisory Committee.

Colburn said Skills Trail is rated as a par 3 mountain biking route. This means experienced cyclists using toe clips will likely have to stop three times on the course to avoid falling over.

Don Bly of La Grande works on Skills Trail, which is part of the Mount Emily Recreation Area.
Don Bly of La Grande works on Skills Trail, which is part of the Mount Emily Recreation Area.

Skills Trail covers only thee-eighths of a mile in a straight line. Still, riders cover three to four miles to complete it because it meanders so much.

The trail is open for all non-motorized uses but is of the type that mountain bikers like best. Colburn said horseback riders do not prefer it because it is so curvy.

Removal of logging debris is a portion of the work that has been done on the trail by the club. This was necessary because of a logging operation in the area last July and August. Colburn credits those doing the logging with being very careful and sensitive to the environment, but said it would have been impossible not to leave some debris.

A large portion of the work being done on the trail involves creating rolling contours and grade reversals. This will allow water to run over the trail as a sheet flow rather than as an erosion-causing current. It will also provide more places for water to drain. A small excavator will later be brought in by the club to do some of the trail work.

Grass seed is also being planted on the trail’s landings. The grass seed is being provided by the U.S. Forest Forest, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Grande Ronde Overlook Wildflower Institute Serving Ecological Restoration, known to many as GROWISER.

Singletrack trails Club members are also placing chicken wire over the small wooden bridges on the trail. This will provide traction for mountain bikers and hikers when the crossings are wet.

Now is a good time to be doing trail work because the ground is soft and wet, making it easier to build things such as berms.

It is not a good time to be mountain biking on the trail for the same reason, since the ground can easily be damaged by bike traffic.

Chambers is impressed with the expertise members of the singletrack club are displaying in completing the restoration work.

“It is a science. They have very good trail knowledge,’’ he said.

Anyone interested in assisting the club with the trail project should call 541-963-9740 or Mountain Works at 541-963-3220.


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