Recreational Trails Program Highlight: Connecting and Completing the Catamount Trail

The project to complete the Catamount Trail, located in Oregon's Silver Falls State Park, was awarded $145,925.00 in Recreational Trails Funds in the year 2016.

The project was designed to connect and complete the Catamount Trail in Silver Falls State Park, which is currently the only trail optimized for mountain bike use in this very popular park. This was Phase 2 of the Catamount Trail and included construction of three miles of new single-track natural surface recreational trail for mountain biking and foot use. It extended the existing Catamount Trail and provided a much-needed connection to the primary access point at 214 Trailhead and to the nearby Shellburg Falls mountain bike trail system and to existing but under-utilized trails within the park. The project included major upgrades and improvements to the existing 3-mile long Phase I portion of the Catamount Trail that had been roughed in over the previous year.

A unique feature of this trail project was the construction of a 1.3 mile beginner level mountain bike trail with professionally designed skill stations and instructional signs to encourage and support skill development. This trail has become a magnet for families with young children, beginning and returning riders, and for training and coaching of local youth mountain bike race teams. No other facility of this kind exists in close proximity to the major population centers of the Mid-Willamette Valley.

The construction of this trail was accomplished using a 25/75 split between local volunteer labor and a professional trail building company. The contract with the professional company included four community trail build events designed specifically to encourage local participation and elevate the knowledge and experience base of the local trail community. A trail crew leadership workshop was held as well, providing training to eight local trail builders who are now able to lead volunteer trail crews. As a result, there is strong and ongoing support for the trail and an enthusiastic volunteer base to provide ongoing trail maintenance and improvement into the future.

Matching funds for this project were supplied by a significant grant from a national outdoor gear retailer, and from over 1500 hours of volunteer labor. Local businesses chipped in by providing food and drink for volunteers and holding fundraising events. As a result of the synergy between new trail development and the creation of an Oregon youth mountain biking race league under the National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA), youth participation in this healthy life-long sport has increased in the local area. The local youth mountain bike team has participated in trail build events, introducing youth to the skills needed for long term trail maintenance and creating a bond between experienced riders and newcomers. Economic impacts include a broader base of tourism visits to Silver Falls State Park and a boost to sales and rentals for local bike shops, as well as an ideal venue for workshops and skill clinics.

Although the trail is optimized for mountain bike use it is also a favorite of trail runners, as it is much less crowded than the very popular waterfall trails, and creates linkage to back country trails with loops of up to 20 miles now available. A local ultra-running race series now has expanded options for race courses within the park.

The enthusiasm and community involvement sparked by this RTP-supported project has had a major effect in solidifying the relationship between Silver Falls State Park management and staff and the non-profit Salem Area Trail Alliance. As a result, further improvements and expansions to this trail system are already underway, with a new connecting trail under construction in 2019 and the ground-work being laid for major improvements to several long-neglected back-country trails in future years.

Published December 05, 2019

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