Public-Private Partnerships Enhancing Public Lands Access and Use


Thurston Hills Natural Area Trail Project

After many years of pursuing land acquisitions on the edge of Springfield, Oregon, and with the passage of a bond measure by local citizens, the Willamalane Park and Recreation District (WPRD) was able to acquire land sought for outdoor recreation trails.

WPRD approached local mountain bike advocates, the Disciples of Dirt (DOD), to enter into an agreement to pledge volunteer time for a Recreational Trails Program grant to build multi-use and mountain bike specific trails at Thurston Hills Natural Area. Local mountain bikers had for many years advocated for trails in the metro area and were enthusiastic that such a possibility was at hand. Excitement for trails was high in the Fall of 2017 when professional trail-builders broke ground, and the volunteer community was ready to spend many days in the upcoming months meeting our commitment of 1500 volunteer hours pledged for the RTP grant.

It soon became apparent that wet site conditions would not permit mechanized trail work until late the following Spring, when soils would dry adequately to permit machinery to work the site. However, the enthusiasm of volunteers from the biking community did not diminish. With a volunteer force ready to go, WPRD worked with volunteer leaders to find useful projects for the winter to support the planned trails. This collaboration proved valuable as additional trail opportunities, many to be built by volunteers, were proposed and approved by WPRD.

Volunteers, brought into the project by the RTP grant pledge, were excited for the opportunity to back up their pledge and set to the task, spending winter and early spring months building trail. When it became apparent that a steeper section trail was more suited to be built with machinery, the local bike club put up the funding to do so. The end result of these efforts added 1.5 miles of trail to the 3 miles that had been originally planned.

Such collaboration between public agencies and the citizens it serves is to be embraced. WPRD recognized this and has continued to engage volunteer leaders from the bike community in trail maintenance and in planning for the next phase of trail build at Thurston Hills. DOD volunteers have scouted and proposed trails that WPRD has adopted, and provided input on soil and water issues which led WPRD to re- route the trails away from sensitive environmental concerns. These activities have generated more than 900 hours of additional volunteer effort.

It has been a pleasure volunteering with WPRD these past three years providing and enhancing opportunities for trail- based recreation within our community. The collaboration between WPRD and DOD, initiated by the RTP grant, and the positive results that collaboration continues to achieve is worthy of recognition. Please accept this nomination of Willamalane Park and Recreation District for a 2020 RTP Achievement Award.

More winners of this award

2023: Statewide Youth Volunteer Trail Maintenance

2021: Griffith Peak Trail Rebuild

2020: Trailhead and Trail Construction in the Shawnee National Forest

2019: Pole Mountain Trails

2018: McPhee Overlook Trail - Colorado

2017: Mountains-to-Sea State Trail/Fonta Flora State Trail Connector - North Carolina

2016: Gypsum City Off-Highway Vehicle Park - Iowa

2015: Montana OHV Trail Maintenance - Montana